Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Parler Shuts Down

Jon Brodkin (Hacker News):

Parler, the self-described “uncancelable free speech platform,” has been sold and shut down while its new owner conducts a “strategic assessment.” The platform will be back eventually, new owner Starboard says.

Mike Masnick:

You may recall there were stories last fall of Kanye West buying the site, which we noted appeared to be the failed site (with around 50,000 daily active users) trying to take advantage of a troubled rich guy. That deal quickly fell apart.


It’s not at all clear why one would buy the site just to shut it down, but the CEO of Starboard claimed he still hoped to “retain the platform’s audience.” But… elsewhere he admitted that there’s no real market for a Trumpist social media network.

Certainly not with Trump himself on Truth Social and Instagram, and also restored on Twitter. Gab is still out there, too, for the crowd who wants even less moderation. I guess Starboard just wanted a good deal on a bunch of customer data.

Interestingly, while Parler was intially removed from the App Store for not being sufficiently moderated, Mastodon apps don’t seem to have faced that problem, even though anyone can start up an instance so there’s no guarantee that any particular moderation policy will be followed.


9 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

"Mastodon apps don’t seem to have faced that problem, even though anyone can start up an instance so there’s no guarantee that any particular moderation policy will be followed."

Probably because Mastodon apps aren't inextricably linked to a problematic server. Nasty instances will typically be defederated, which means most other instances don't interact with them. So to see content from the nasty instance you have to join it specifically, or join an instance that does interact with it, which is probably also nasty.

@Jon I don’t think that’s it because the same logic would have applied to Parler. Since it didn’t have an algorithmic timeline, you would only see content from the people you follow. Don’t follow nasty people, and you aren’t exposed to that stuff. It’s as if you’re on a clean instance. That’s how I’ve used Twitter and Mastodon.

Not sure how the app reviewers have reasoned or will in the future, but if they were being rationale (a big assumption), then it is fairly easy to argue that Parler is centralized, hence responsible for all moderation, which makes their app clearly responsible for that moderation as well, while Mastodon apps do not have control of the moderation and are more like e-mail clients or web browsers.

I do think platforms like iOS and Android should evaluate such decentralized models differently because I do think they make it inherently better at isolating users from content they don't want to see. On twitter, it's not so easy to "not follow nasty people" as new ones can come in at any time, whereas the decentralized nature of Mastodon makes it much more likely that those "nasty people" will naturally go to instances already blocked by your instance. Maybe I am naive, time will tell, but I do think it makes a difference.

Given all the bullshit calls app store reviewers have made that have been reported on this very blog, I think we can safely assume there was no rationale beyond "We don't like Parler"

Which I'm absolutely fine with. You don't have to be on the app store to get your stuff on an iPhone. If you choose to be on the app store then you have to play by whatever Apple says.

@Charles I don’t have the link handy, but my recollection is that in the past Apple used the opposite reasoning: since decentralized services can’t gaurantee moderation, clients for them aren’t allowed at all. Of course, this is totally inconsistent with the handling of e-mail and Mastodon clients.

I also think the federated distinction is untenable. Suppose you have a service like Gab but with multiple instances. Perhaps one “nasty” instance would get 99% of the users because the main point of being on such a service is to post stuff the other services don’t allow. So now you have something that’s technically federated but defacto centralized and unmoderated.

@Kristoffer You’re fine with Apple deciding which apps to allow or fine with them pretending there are guidelines when the actual rule is whether or not they like you?

@Kristoffer "You don't have to be on the app store to get your stuff on an iPhone." Unless Apple actually finally adds in an official way to manually install apps permanently or install other app stores, that's just not true. You may be referring to running in a web browser, but if so that's hardly a solution as web pages are extremely limited in what they can do, to say nothing of the fact that they are not natively running apps. For many developers, it has to be an app or it can't be anything at all.

The truth is that Apple has been malevolently wielding their control over which apps are allowed on the app store. Sometimes it's unintentional (see all of the stupid and thoughtless app store rejections developers have dealt with over the years), and sometimes it's deliberate, and even political. One may approve of something like Parler from being denied on the app store, but I don't think it's a hard argument to make that we don't want a behemoth corporation deciding which apps we're allowed to see on our phones. Inevitably they will remove something you care about it, as their interests do not align with ours, the users. The incident where Apple rejected an app that notifies the users of US drone strikes is a good example of a troubling political takedown.

"Interestingly, while Parler was intially removed from the App Store for not being sufficiently moderated, " That was a flimsy pretext. Parlor was gaining steam and looking like it could be a serious threat to Twitter, so Apple and Google colluded and kneecapped it - plain and simple.

@EricE And Amazon Web Services. And despite objectionable content that slipped through on Twitter probably getting way more reach on (since it’s more popular), but back then Apple favored Twitter. I don’t personally care about Parler, but it’s scary because, as Bri says, there’s a much bigger issue here.

@Bri I was indeed talking about the web and I think we can both agree that parler, and most social media apps, would work as webbapps. I would go as far as to say that all the most common activities on a phone could be done as webbapps.

Then there are the niche stuff that needs bluetooth or NFC or that really pushes the hardware.

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