FARGO — As with any election year, tensions are high and opinions are met with just as much opposition as one would expect.
Social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been cracking down on political misinformation surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
But many, especially those who tend to lean toward the elephant in the room, felt Facebook had gone too far — claiming the social media giant was working to single out conservative voices. Not only were some pre-election posts labeled as false or misleading, false claims of election victories, both during and post-election, were also labeled as such.
It was enough for millions of users to abandon their blue ship in favor of a red life vest. A haven, so to speak, where they felt their voices could be heard unmoderated and unfiltered, without fear of censorship or fact-checking.
That life-vest? Parler.
Parting in favor of Parler
An infant in the world of social media platforms compared to its counterparts, Parler is a U.S.-based social media website that works similarly to Twitter. Users can post text and/or images, which other users can then comment on, give votes of approval or "echo" (or "retweet" in Twitter-speak). It's listed as an "unbiased social media (platform) focused on real user experiences and engagement" and focuses on "free expression without violence and no censorship," according to the description set forth by the website itself.
In late July 2020, Parler reported more than 2.5 million users, with more parting ways from Twitter and Facebook as the 2020 election drew closer and closer.
Fargo resident Barry Dresser is one of those users. While he didn't part ways from big Facebook completely, he did join the Parler crowd near the end of August 2020.
"After Facebook started censoring content, I saw one of my friends post something about Parler," Dresser said. "I had not previously heard of it and signed up so I had an outlet for political discussion without the censorship and without alienating any of my friends or family."
Although he's taken his political thoughts to Parler, Dresser says he does keep tabs on his Facebook page. He isn't very active on his Twitter account.
"I am still active on Facebook, and it is my main social media fix," he said. "I've been on it for many years and have made a habit of keeping my political views, for the most part, out of my regular posts. It's been a way to stay in touch with friends and family that I don't get a chance to see often enough."
Celebrities and local political figures have even joined the Parler crowd.
"Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's account boasts more than 4 million followers, while North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer's account, which became active in mid-November, has a smaller following, at just over 50.
"Sen. Cramer is always looking for new ways to communicate directly with his constituents," said Jake Wilkins, communications director for Cramer's campaign.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem joined Parler on Nov. 9, according to an announcement on Twitter. After just one day on the platform, the popular conservative said she already had 51,000 followers.
The majority of Parler users lean right when it comes to the voting booth; however, one political figure is missing from the estimated 4 million active users — President Trump. While @TeamTrump (the president's re-election campaign team) is on the site and boasts around 2 million followers, the president himself does not have an account.
But will this "free speech" platform stick around? Only time will tell. As for the social media platform users, such as Dresser, there is still a bit of attraction to the blue hues of Facebook and Twitter.
"I had given thought to dropping my Facebook account after the election season shenanigans but decided it would be more detrimental to me than to Facebook," he said. "It's still a great platform for connecting, but I think all of the major social media platforms need to take their political views and desires out of their daily operation. They seem to forget that half of their audience is conservative and they deserve better."