RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Parler has a new home days after it went offline. The social media site was used by some people involved in the Capitol attack. Amazon stopped hosting it, and Google and Apple dropped the app. But it's now registered with a company that hosts far-right platforms. Steve Inskeep talked with Brian Friedberg at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, who tracks extremism online.
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: So when big tech companies are cracking down on a site like Parler or some of the even more extreme sites, how are the people on those sites responding?
BRIAN FRIEDBERG: Whenever a large platform takes action against the community, contingency plans are passed around very quickly. So, for example, when it seemed that Twitter was taking action against the far right on its platform, a spike of people posting their Parler accounts happened and people were driven to Parler. When Parler seemed like it was going down, lists of alternative tech platforms were passed around in an effort to sort of maintain a community coherence during the shifts.
INSKEEP: Obviously, these sites provide a forum where people with radical views or extremist views can express themselves. Do they serve as recruiting tools?
FRIEDBERG: One of the staples of these communities are sort of dark libraries or knowledge dumps of propagandist material, fake studies, quote-unquote, "forbidden history." You also have very dedicated figures that maintain these knowledge dumps that are waiting for new people and are ready to sort of indoctrinate them into new lines of alternative reasoning or conspiratorial frames.
INSKEEP: How much are these subterranean conspiracy theory networks continuing to influence mainstream events that the rest of us do see?
FRIEDBERG: The visibility of these movements on mainstream social media is going to go down because of the unprecedented steps that most of these platforms took all at once. But when you look at the reports of all these other demonstrations, marches and potential seditionist activity that could be occurring across the U.S. right now, they're certainly paying attention. And there are indications that at least some people involved in these communities will be participating.
INSKEEP: I wonder if their influence is felt in a more subtle way as well. We are listening this week to Congress debating the 25th Amendment and debating impeachment of the president. Some of the actual lawmakers, a few of them, are open adherents to QAnon conspiracy theories and other conspiracy theories. And it seems fair to presume that a lot of other lawmakers don't believe this stuff but know that some of their voters believe it and believe that it's their job or their - it serves their ambition to lie about it or to say things that are consistent with the lies so that they don't lose support.
FRIEDBERG: A lot of these beliefs have existed below the radar. A lot of these people come from truther communities, et cetera, things that have had political condemnation in the past but have never sown so much political power as they have under the Trump presidency. Going forward, adherence to Q will become more diffuse. So in some sense, the end of the QAnon era is the beginning of a new era of mainstream conspiracism in American politics and how that can drive people to seditious public action.
INSKEEP: Brian Friedberg at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, thanks so much.
FRIEDBERG: Thank you.
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