Against “censorship”, the American extreme right calls for joining alternative social networks

Facebook and Twitter “Tear apart the very fabric of our democracy”Bill Russo, Joe Biden’s communications manager, said Monday, November 9, saying that social networks were not doing enough to limit the dissemination of conspiratorial messages accusing the president-elect without proof of having “stolen” the election. Numerous American right-wing activists denounce illegal “censorship” on the part of Facebook, Google or Twitter, and register on “alternative” and unmoderated social networks, created by right-wing activists or far right.

The social network Parler, which claims to be a “free” equivalent of Twitter, has seen the number of its registrations explode since the election. In one week, its number of users has grown from 4.5 million to 8 million, says the social network, partly owned by pro-Trump activist Dan Bongino. “Fight technological tyranny. Mobilize for freedom on social networks. Register on Speak », writes Mr. Bongino in a post on his site, where he also calls to fight against “Digital inquisition”. On Sunday, the application had climbed to first place in the ranking of downloads on the Apple application store, in the category of social networks.

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Gab, a popular far-right social network created several years ago by Andrew Torba (who defines himself as a “Christian entrepreneur”), also announced that it had seen an influx of registrations and visits. “Gab was visited 7.7 million times in October (99% increase from September), but last week alone we had 7.5 million visits. Hundreds of thousands of people created an account on Gab this week », writes Mr. Torba in a message posted on Gab’s site, in which he attributes this growth to “Electoral interference” media, social networks and the Democratic Party.

In addition to these two networks which are close to Twitter in their functioning, there are several smaller conservative platforms, such as Newsmax, and who also claimed strong growth.

Networks that have never succeeded in establishing themselves

These impressive numbers are not, however, the definitive indicator of lasting success. After the far-right Charlottesville protest in 2017, in which one person was killed by a white supremacist, Facebook and Twitter hardened their moderation towards far-right groups. Several ultraconservative social networks – including Gab – had then benefited from a significant renewed interest, but none had managed to retain these new users on a lasting basis.

At the time, Gab suffered from technical problems, as is the case with Parler today. Moreover, these “militant” networks cannot replace certain functionalities of “general public” networks, such as keeping in touch with one’s family. Then, from a strictly political point of view, these networks of “among oneself” are ill-suited to convincing new supporters, since we only exchange between conservative activists. Several sites launched in 2017 also experienced money problems or legal difficulties.

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These networks should, however, continue to benefit from strong exposure, as major platforms have increased measures targeting the far right since the election. Airbnb has announced Wednesday, having blocked reservations for members of the small group Proud Boys, who will go this weekend to the pro-Trump demonstration “Million MAGA March” organized in Washington. In this very tense atmosphere, Facebook and Google quietly extended their temporary ban on political advertising, which had been put in place a week before the election.

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