On the Day Twitter Banned Trump, Parler Downloads Surged by More Than 500%

The service is now shut down as it seeks a new hosting service

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

App downloads of “free speech” platforms Parler and MeWe jumped in the days following riots at the Capitol on Wednesday and the subsequent permanent suspension of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Before Parler’s removal from the App Store and Google Play on Friday, the platform gained tens of thousands of downloads in the United States alone.

According to daily download data from Apptopia, which tracks mobile app trends, Parler was downloaded roughly 16,600 times in the U.S. last Wednesday, 14,300 times on Thursday, and approximately 94,700 times on Friday, up until its removal from app stores.

MeWe, which functions similarly to Facebook, saw roughly 9,200 U.S. downloads on Wednesday, approximately 13,800 on Thursday, and more than 34,000 downloads on Friday, January 8.

In the few days leading up to Wednesday’s riots, Parler averaged roughly 14,500 daily downloads while MeWe averaged roughly 9,500.

Data analytics firm SensorTower told TechCrunch over the weekend that within the U.S., Parler saw “approximately 182,000 first-time downloads on 1/8, up 355% from about 40,000 installs on 1/7.” When asked about the discrepancy in figures between the two estimates, a representative from Apptopia said, “Typically our estimates are more conservative on big bursts, but over time, our numbers tend to find each other.”

Far-right communities have been migrating to alternative social networks such as Parler, MeWe, and Gab since 2019, when mainstream platforms Facebook and Twitter began to aggressively moderate movements like Stop the Steal. This phenomenon peaked last week when Trump was momentously banned from Twitter after tweeting sentiments that could have incited physical violence, such as the attempted coup in Washington, D.C.

Self-described “free speech” platforms have successfully marketed themselves against the moderation of conspiracy theory groups, militias, and far-right communities on Facebook and Twitter. Last year, OneZero reported that the banning of Stop the Steal Facebook groups in November contributed to massive spikes in Parler and MeWe downloads that month. But while these events can provide an intense shot of new users, these surges are also short-lived, and it remains to be seen whether Parler and MeWe are sustainable.

Parler may be especially hindered by its removal from app stores, and its loss of cloud hosting support from Amazon Web Services, which suspended the site due to failed policing of hate speech and violence on the platform. The service is now shut down as it seeks to find another hosting service.

Many Parler users are now scrambling to find backup platforms, some relying on MeWe, which is still available for download, and others creating replacement groups on the chat app Telegram.

According to Apptopia, daily downloads for the social networking app Parlor — which people have apparently confused for Parler — reached their highest rank on Friday, becoming the 20th most-downloaded iOS app in the U.S.

Update: This piece has been updated to cite a TechCrunch piece with data from Sensor Tower.

Staff writer at OneZero covering social platforms, internet communities, and the spread of misinformation online. Previously: VICE

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