Social media censorship spawns Parler popularization and free speech discussions

Student looks at Parler app on their iPhone. Emileé Edwards | Photographer

Parler has become a go-to social media site for those upset with other sites and their censoring policies. Professionals say this could have dangerous consequences.

Every day doctors learn more about the coronavirus. News stations everywhere are constantly reporting and updating information to keep the world in the loop. To stop the spread of misinformation, social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have begun to flag misinformation about the virus to stop the spread of false information.

However, this has caused people to worry about their right to free speech.

Baylor senior electronic media designer Taylor Torregrossa Beard said it’s important to take censorship seriously because the right to free speech is imperative.

“Censoring information makes it look like something is being hidden. So while I understand that it’s important for correct health information to be communicated, I ultimately believe it’s the responsibility of our educated population to make those discernments,” Beard said.

The conservative population is upset about the censorship and is looking to move to Parler, a social media website that claims to emphasize free speech and says it does not censor anything.

Fort Worth senior Zachary Miller, chairman of Baylor Young Americans for Freedom, joined Parler when the exodus from Twitter began.

“I mean, any conservative is going to be upset with Twitter and Facebook and social media companies about some of their policies. I mean, obviously we all have different views about what should be done about that, but sure, anytime there’s a social media startup that reports to be all about free speech or reports to be exclusively conservative, that’s interesting. I’m always interested in checking those out and seeing what they’re like,” Miller said.

Parler has been dubbed as the “conservative Twitter.” Beard said she believes it is a mistake for them to have a model post of someone supporting Trump on their home page.

“If it was truly a community dedicated to free speech, they’d drop the politics out of it and stick to their own brand,” media analyst and part-time lecturer of journalism Carlye Thornton said.

Beard said following people from the whole political spectrum is the best way to have a balanced and fair view.

“Most people only follow or listen to or engage with people who already believe the exact same things that they believe and it’s just creating this wider divide of hatred and anger… So Parler seems very problematic to me because it’s pandering to one side, which means they’re potentially creating an entire platform of an echo chamber, which seems really problematic,” Beard said.

Many reliable news sources are under paywalls, so they are not available for everyone to read. The free websites have the potential to be less objective. Beard said the solution to misinformation is the educated population beginning a discussion to point out false information, not censorship.

“There’s a major demographic of all ages who do not know how to critically think about news that’s posted on their social media timelines,” Beard said. “So the large majority of consumers on social media aren’t able to click through to an article and discern whether or not … this is truthful information, and that’s super problematic and that’s something that we should take really seriously and teach.”