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Parler data breach: Archived posts from Capitol riots could reveal platform’s role in the insurrection

Parler data breach: Archived posts from Capitol riots could reveal platform's role in the insurrection


Parler data breach: Archived posts from Capitol riots could reveal platform’s role in the insurrection

Morgan Hines
Kelly Tyko

Parler, Gab on the rise as conservative social media alternativesConservative-friendly social media platforms are on the rise, as traditional ones likes Twitter and Facebook crack down on misleading or false posts.USA TODAYAs thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed Washington last week, one hacker archived their posts on Parler to help reconstruct the role the social media platform played in the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.The hacker, who goes by @donk_enby on Twitter, said her goal was to preserve every post from Wednesday’s Capitol breach before the Parler platform was taken down, like “a bunch of people running into a burning building trying to grab as many things as we can.”Parler and @donk_enby didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY’s requests for comment.According to the Atlantic Council, Parler is one of the social media platforms popular with conservatives and extremists that was used to plan last week’s riots. Others cited include Gab and MeWe.How about Gab? What is Gab, the social network gaining popularity among conservatives?Parler goes dark: Amazon suspends the social platform from its web hosting servicesThe Parler website went dark early Monday after Amazon’s web hosting service suspended the company. It was the latest step taken by tech companies in response to the Capitol siege. Google and Apple also removed the Parler app from their app stores.“We are still learning the extent the platform was used by insurrectionists to plan and execute the Jan. 6th breach of the Capitol,” Britt Paris, a critical informatics scholar and associate professor at Rutgers University who tracks misinformation campaigns, said in a statement.“As Capitol metadata specialists and independent security researchers access these troves of scraped messages – which include messages deleted in the aftermath of Jan. 6th – we will see a clearer picture of the role Parler played in the attack,” Paris said.A group of activist hackers also salvaged much of what happened on Parler before it went offline and plan to put it in a public archive, the Associated Press reported.The downloading and archiving of content from Parler, including image files that can be tied to geographic locations, has rattled Parler users, though law enforcement would likely have been able to access the data anyway, and experts said the archive does not include information that was not publicly accessible.“If this wasn’t done, we would only have fragments and scraps of the information that was on Parler before the takedown,” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist at McGill University who has studied hacker movements. “It’s important because these forums are increasingly where people come together to organize themselves. You learn about motivations, ideological tactics.”Parler archive: What’s in the dataHacker @donk_enby’s archived material lives at According to @donk_enby, “only things that were available publicly via the web were archived.”Gizmodo reported that the material will eventually be hosted by the Internet Archive.The archived material includes “original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” the hacker said Sunday. Later, the hacker shared a tweet containing a screenshot of metadata included in the upload with location data such as GPS longitude and GPS latitude. Monday night she also tweeted about where to find the “metadata from all 30TB of those videos.” The cache of data is not yet easily readable by non-experts.Parler lawsuitParler became popular among conservatives as a much more loosely moderated forum during the 2020 presidential election cycle when both Facebook and Twitter began more aggressively policing and labeling content.Last week after Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms silenced President Donald Trump’s accounts over comments that incited Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, the 2-year-old platform welcomed a surge of new users and became the No. 1 free app on iPhones. But its growing popularity was short-lived as tech companies like Amazon deplatformed Parler for the role it played.Parler CEO John Matze called the series of actions as “a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace.”Matze has signaled there is little chance of getting Parler back online anytime soon after “every vendor, from text message services, to e-mail providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” he told Fox New Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”In a Monday interview with Fox Business, he said the company “may even have to go as far as buying and building our own data centers and buying up our own servers.”Parler filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday arguing that Amazon violated antitrust laws to harm Parler and help Twitter. It also alleged Amazon breached its contract by not giving 30 days of notice before terminating Parler’s account. Amazon did not return the Associated Press’ request for comment Monday but told the court it planned to oppose the lawsuit.Contributing: Jessica Guynn and Jessica Menton, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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