On 6 January 2021, hundreds of Trump supporters invaded and occupied the Capitol building in Washington DC, the seat of the US Congress and Senate. The rioters damaged property and five people died. Two pipe bombs were reportedly found in buildings not far from the Capitol. In the aftermath, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for “incitement of insurrection”.
Now, thanks to the swift work of a ‘hacktivist’, more information is coming to light about what really happened during the lead-up to the invasion of the Capitol.
Home for hate speech
Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) ‘Hatewatch’ has accused social media platform Parler of being “a haven for recruitment and promotion for the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol building”. For example, it reports that Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino wrote on Parler, “Find the traitors and get the rope. THIS IS OUR HOUSE!!”. It also reported that Kevin Greeson, one of those who died during the invasion of the Capitol building, posted “Let’s take this fucking Country BACK!! Load your guns and take to the streets!”
The reaction was swift. Following the Capitol invasion, Google and Apple suspended Parler from their app stores. Not long after, Parler was also suspended by Amazon from its web hosting service.
In its court filings, dated 12 January 2021, Amazon Web Services said:
this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.
And there’s this:
Yesterday I had a fascinating conversation with some very nice people who genuinely thought ‘big tech’ took down Parler because people were using it to argue about the election. They hadn’t see any of this, from AWS’s filing. This is why they took down Parler. pic.twitter.com/GMkWMmzM04
— Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) January 16, 2021
Parler has attracted prominent politicians and political activists. In July 2020, the Independent reported that subscribers included far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. SPLC reports that Boogaloo’s Last Sons Of Liberty, as well as Infowars‘ Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer, are also Parler subscribers. And CNN Business names QAnon members as subscribers. According to the Independent:”The president is not on the app (yet), but his son and White House press secretary are, along with his Republican allies like , Jim Jordan, [and Republican congressman] “.
On the other side of the Atlantic, UK government minister Michael Gove was named as one of several Conservative MPs who opened accounts on Parler. Others include foreign office minister James Cleverly, health minister Nadine Dorries, trade minister Ranil Jayawardena, arch-Brexiter Steve Baker, and Conservative MP Ben Bradley.
According to the Guardian:
The most prolific Tory MP on the site was Bradley who sent 52 “parleys” and had more than 12,000 followers. Gove sent at least 26 parleys and had more than 5,000 followers.
Darren Grimes, who worked for BeLeave, was another Parler account subscriber. BeLeave was a pro-Brexit campaign group linked with Vote Leave that was fronted by Gove and Boris Johnson. Hate purveyor Katie Hopkins has a Parler account too.
It’s been revealed that a co-founder and now financial backer of Parler is Rebekah Mercer. Both she and her father Robert have also financed Breitbart News, formerly run by controversial right-winger and Brexit supporter Steve Bannon. And Bannon was also a “board member, vice-president, and part-owner” of Cambridge Analytica (CA), the discredited former data mining company.
But it gets even more complicated. According to the Guardian, Robert Mercer helped bankroll CA as well as Trump’s election campaign. Moreover, it’s claimed that a company called Emerdata is the successor to CA and its parent SCL. And in 2017, Rebekah Mercer set up Emerdata and made herself a director, together with former CA chief Alexander Nix.
As for web hosting, Vice reported on 11 January that Parler was being hosted by Epik, which SPLC describes as “cornering the market on websites where hate speech is thriving”. However, on 19 January, the Guardian reported that Parler is being hosted by Russia-based DDos-Guard, whose clients include the Russian ministry of defence.
As we go to press, the new Parler site appears to be experiencing ‘technical difficulties’. In a statement on its website Parler, denies its role in the Capitol building invasion:
Parler is gratified that the court refused to uncritically accept Amazon’s argument – widely repeated in the media – that the Parler platform was somehow used to plan, coordinate or execute the despicable January 6 riot at the Capitol.
Based on the evidence of which we are aware, the Parler platform was not used in that manner
No hiding place
In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol invasion, hacker donk_enby, who according to Vice considers herself an anarcho-socialist, archived much of Parler‘s content so as to preserve self-incriminating postings. Vice reports she scraped “56.7 terabytes of data, which included every public post on Parler, 412 million files in all—including 150 million photos and more than 1 million videos”. She added how she was helped in the task by the Archive Team.
She also clarified, “Everything we grabbed was publicly available on the web, we just made a permanent public snapshot of it”. A webpage on the Parler archive explains how to access the data. That webpage is part of the Distributed Denial of Secrets site, which includes many other data collections.
Meanwhile, ProPublica has published a selection of 500 videos that were posted on Parler and which help show what happened in the invasion of the Capitol building.
US attorney and activist Malaika Jabali warns:
Parler may be homeless now, but there is an entire world that welcomes the hatred and violence it cultivates
It’s all about the company you keep; or, to put it another way, which sewer you choose to swim in.
And with the downfall of Trump, there could be more casualties from the Capitol invasion and Parler bans.
Featured image via YouTube
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