Welcome to Parler, Comrade
You think Tik-Tok is a national security threat? Wait until you find out about Parler.
TL; DR It's Russians.
First, what does Parler say it is?
Parler is a social network platform founded by John Matze and Jared Thomson, two conservative programmers, in 2018. The website calls itself a “free speech” alternative to platforms like Twitter. In the founders' opinions, big tech companies have an anti-conservative bias and censor those views. This, of course, is not true. But hey, it's 2020 and no one cares about facts anyway.
Parler became more popular as numerous tweets by the likes of President Trump were marked on Twitter as being false. Right wing users didn't like being told their misinformation was bullshit, so they started moving to their own echo-chamber, where no one fact checked them. Among its users are Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio). He and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.) recently praised Parler for “its commitment to not censor or editorialize.” So you're free to just make shit up as a public official.
Now there's nothing wrong with conservatives wanting a free platform to spew their nonsense, but there are a lot of big names promoting Parler, and that sort of promotion isn't cheap. Then I ran across Dave Troy's thread on Twitter. He goes into more detail on some elements than I do, but I'll hit the highlights.
As Dave says:
Parler LLC is owned by two member entities: John Matze and NDMASCENDANT LLC. There is no public record of who comprises NDMASCENDANT LLC. It is a Delaware corporation. The company has not raised any traditional VC rounds that we can see.
Parler isn't running on someone's laptop. You want to do the sort of things that Twitter does, you need money. A lot of money. Salaries for the rank-and-file developers will easily run over $100k per person. Server farms, backups, failovers, and bandwidth will cost millions. And the people who are claiming to own it, or fund it (depending on who you talk to and the time of day) definitely do not have that kind of money. Recently Fox News ran a bit questioning if the Far-Right's bogeyman, George Soros was behind Parler. Dan Bongino came out (on Twitter, no less) to say that was false, he owned Parler.
Dan must be doing pretty well for himself. As in, in line with what Trump says he's worth, not what he's actually worth. Kind of fishy.
So let's look at where it all started.
Founder John Matze met his wife, Alina Mukhutdinova, in May 15, 2016 in Las Vegas. Alina is from Kazan, Russia. They traveled to Russia in November 2017. This alone isn't an issue. My wife is Japanese. But the Japanese don't have a history of meddling in US politics.
In December 2018, the site received a massive influx of new users thanks to publicity from ultra conservatives like Candace Owens and Cassandra Fairbanks. Many high profile people reserved accounts that month as a result of this push, including Owens’ buddy Kanye West.
As the company expanded in 2019, it has been squarely focused on creating conditions that would challenge section 230 of the communications decency act. The company’s purpose seems to be expressly political and aimed at eroding US social media firms. - Dave Troy
However, as Will Sommer of The Daily Beast reported in July, many of these new conservative Parler users don't use the platform that much. Johnson, Stuckey, and Miller all contributed to Twitter multiple times a day while their Parler accounts were silent.
Also, a preliminary analysis of the first several thousand accounts on Parler shows that it is the usual Russia aligned operatives that we in this space have tracked for years. This is a large scale op aligned with Russian interests.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed his own concern.
“Parler and Gab are walled gardens built to provide safe harbor for wild conspiracies, white supremacists, and vile hate speech,” Warner said. “It’s of little surprise they would welcome the participation of foreigners cosplaying as Americans.”
A Graphika report last week found that a fictitious group, called the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens, was operated by Russians and focused on pushing divisive narratives on American racial issues, immigration and globalism. Their Twitter and Facebook accounts were deleted, but they have 14k followers on Parler.
Do I have ironclad proof that Parler is a Russian psyop? No. But there's equal or less proof that Tik-Tok is a national security threat, and Trump was trying to ban them (it seems he has since lost interest). What we do know is that Russia has assets involved in Parler, the true funding is unknown, and it's primary messages are destructive to the US and align with Russian backed propaganda.