ASHLAND A new social media site is piquing the interest of some Twitter and Facebook users in the area.

The site, Parler, states its goal is to “protect our community members’ rights and privacy. Parler is here to help people with varying life experiences, and from all walks of life communicate on a platform which treats them as equals.”

Parler’s site guidelines do not allow pornography, blackmail, support for terrorism, false rumors, promoting marijuana or “fighting words” directed at others. It also claims to protect members’ rights and privacy.

Ashland resident Karen Curnutte-Althoff said she joined after hearing conservative political commentator Dan Bongino speak about it.

“He mentions it a lot. He’s up front about his having a financial stake in the company,” Curnutte-Althoff said. Bongino purchased ownership stake in Parler in June.

Parler has said it doesn’t ban hate speech. Curnutte-Althoff said that’s not the appeal for her.

“When the big social media platforms censored the story on Hunter Biden’s laptop, I was incensed,” she said. “I’d never have believed our country could mimic communist countries like China and Russia in shutting down reporters who didn’t have the ‘right’ narrative. In fact, I’m shocked that more people aren’t protesting the censorship.”

John Collins, an Ashland native who now lives in Tampa, Florida, joined Parler in September, shortly after he said a private message he sent on Facebook — a link to a conservative news story — was censored for “violating community standards.”

“I have never been accused of, or punished for, hate speech. All I do know is that Parler does not censor free speech or sell your data,” Collins said. “I have never heard of — nor would I want to see — a bunch of hate speech toward anyone, so I do not know Parler’s views on it specifically.”

Parler states it does not fact check. Curnutte-Althoff and Collins said that doesn’t concern them.

“If fact-checking meant stopping or slowing the spread of obvious misinformation (as in a story or comment about a celebrity that’s patently false), it would be great. But, it has become something far more dangerous,” she said. “Fact-checking, in the minds of the ‘fact checkers’ on Facebook and Twitter, only means that if you are opining about a subject they disagree with, you will be shut down. By doing this, they are taking on the role of a publisher. A publisher has the right to filter content. Twitter and Facebook tout that they are platforms, not publishers, and therefore aren’t responsible for what is said. They claim this so they aren’t sued for libel. However, when they filter out dissenting opinions, they are taking on that role of publisher and infringing on free speech. That’s why people are leaving their platforms. Not so they can run amok and spread hate, but they’re interested in regaining their rights to free speech. It’s a slippery slope, though. Already I’m noticing comments on Parler that seem geared to be as nasty as they can be to see how far they can push the boundaries.”

Collins said he doesn’t need someone to fact-check him.

“Facebook has over-stepped that line by removing a simple web link in a private conversation to a friend,” he said, adding he doesn’t believe in censorship.

“I believe in freedom of speech and the responsibility of all of us to do our due diligence to discern what is truthful,” he said. “Truth always prevails when we allow freedom of speech, thought, and expression ... not when we allow perceived or actual people in power to tell us what is truth.”

Parler launched in late 2018 and by May 2019, the user base had grown to 100,000. In June 2019, Parler announced its base had more than doubled when 200,000 accounts from Saudi Arabia signed up. Mostly supporters of the controversial Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the users migrated from Twitter after alleging they were experiencing censorship on the platform.

The relatively new social media platform MeWe also is on the rise among pro-Trump users.

Owned by Mark Weinstein, MeWe has no advertisers, so its business plan includes a MeWe Store with emojis and a secret chat subscription. Unlike Parler, it wasn’t started as a network for conservatives, but it has become one, according to Still, there are other political groups and groups that are not at all political.

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