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8Kun & Parler: As Twitter & Facebook Ban QAnon Users, New Fringe Social Platforms Pop Up
Parler. 8kun. What are they? Why are they here? Who is the typical user, what are they looking for, and in turn, what are they creating? Two of Yonder’s social platform experts, Kris Shaffer and Alex Fisher, break things down for us below.
Tune into our webinar to learn about the users and narratives emerging on these channels, and how to determine the extent to which these narratives can hurt your brand.
Let’s Talk About Parler…
Commonly referred to as “Conservative Twitter,” Parler (French: parler, lit. ‘to speak’) was founded by John Matze and Jared Thomson in Henderson, Nevada in 2018. Parler describes itself as a platform “built upon a foundation of respect for privacy and personal data, free speech, free markets, and ethical, transparent corporate policy.” In less romantic terms, Parler is a microblogging and social networking service that came about as a direct result of people migrating from Twitter’s moderation and fact-checking policies, preferring a social media home with less “censorship.” Because of Parler’s willingness to employ lax moderation (users “curate [their] own experience,”) and the promise that they won’t engage in “agenda-driven shadowbanning” or “deplatforming” users for their views, the site often acts as an echo chamber for right-wing ideologies, and a draw for conspiracy theories.
As of October 2020, it was estimated that Parler had about 4 million users. It enjoys a user base of Republican personalities, Trump supporters, Conservatives, Alt-Righters, Saudi nationals, Russian trolls, anti-Semites, people banned from other sites, and conspiracists who refer to themselves as “Patriots” but spell it with a “Q” in the middle.
Moving along, let’s meet 8kun, the latest entry in the notorious “chan” series..
8what? The Chans Continue to Evolve.
The “chans” (2chan, 4chan, 8chan, and now 8kun) grew out of a subculture of extremely “online” people, with a focus on Japanese pop culture and its Western fans. The anonymity of the platform allowed users to experiment with personal identity, and find online communities where they could play these identities out. Despite benign beginnings, the platform developed extreme corners that were problematic, defensive, and sometimes lawbreaking. 4chan is famous for Gamergate – the coordination of attacks against women in the gaming industry.
In each successive stage of the chans, moderation has ejected extreme actors, who then go on to form new, more extreme communities. But 8chan was known for allowing deeply troubling/violent/illegal material to remain without moderation. For that reason it’s been booted from server company to server company. Its current provider is VanwaTech (aka OrcaTech), and after a brief disruption, a Russian-based company known only as ddos-guard[.]net swooped in to provide DDoS protection services.
Now known as 8kun, the site largely serves far-right extremists, including some that promote violence, or share child pornography. It has also been a repository for hacking dump materials, like the Podesta email that users developed into the hypothetical narrative that would become Pizzagate.
Sometimes chan users are just in it for the lulz. Sometimes their actions stem from anger at those with more perceived power, the “Chad’s and Stacy’s” of the world. Sometimes users are acting from a perceived threat to their cherished online community. These frustrations combined with a gamified culture can spur some users to engage in worse and worse activities, thus changing the tenor of the culture and the boundaries of what is considered “acceptable” – pushing those more extreme posters to the next chan iteration. 2 chan begets 4 chan begets 8 chan begets 8kun begets…
So why these new fringe platforms, and why now?
While it may seem that an overwhelming number of extremists are running to these “free-er speech” platforms, the question may not be “why now,” but rather “why always?” Parler and 8kun are the latest in a long trend of attempts to wrestle power from FB and Twitter, looking towards a new platform less corporate, less centralized, more open, transparent, with more user control.
There is a grander story here, of people from all sides of the ideological spectrum who would not at all support the communities that 8kun is known for, but do support the idea of platforms without censorship. It’s a trend we always see, with no sign of stopping. In one form or another, these types of platforms are likely here to stay.
Silver lining? We’ll keep an eye on them, so you don’t have to.
Reach out if you’d like to schedule time to talk with our team about these platforms and how they are influencing your brand.