The scrutiny from the government around big tech giants — mostly Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple — hasn’t really helped the cause of these companies as they try to naturally overcome the negative side of being tagged monopolies because the truth is before any other reason, everyone hates monopolies.
For almost a year now, these companies have become subject to anti-trust hearings, data privacy scrutiny, and monopolistic behavior accusations. The center of the entire concern from the government is that these companies have become or are becoming too powerful to control and their dominance and power are built around the sophisticated networks of user data they have and competitive bottlenecks.
The likes of Google and Apple use their smartphone (hardware) and software (inbuilt apps and app store) to ensure that they have a broad number of channels to be involved in the lives of an average citizen and that they are difficult to replace with a competitor, while Amazon uses its eCommerce as a frontier for entering into numerous business categories as Facebook, on the other hand, leverages WhatsApp, Instagram, and the Facebook app to ensure they are the major player in the social media space.
The constant mergers and acquisition by these companies is also a problem because they have the enormous capital base to buy off competitors or buy their way quickly into a new market place by acquiring a fast-growing company in that space, hence, it looks like these super companies have become a necessary evil with their fingerprints in almost every aspect of our lives as they also deliver superior user experience and service which means they and their owners keep getting powerful and the government is wary of such power.
However, the most recent demonstration of power, social and political significance, is by two major social media giants, Facebook and Twitter; both companies have been summoned for hearings as the government decides if their actions to censor people’s comments (including that of the USA president!) with regards to the US election, is justified.
Twitter was the first to really get serious with censorship after they fact-checked Donald Trump’s tweet in May when the US president tweeted to suggest that mail-in ballots would be fraudulent, the social media company felt such tweets were baseless and misleading and can influence people’s decisions or actions prior to the elections and mostly incite violence, hence the tweet was labeled as misleading.
This form of action especially with regards to election influence does not come as a surprise as the world was awakened to the power these companies have in influencing elections outcomes after the Facebook Cambridge analytic scandal, hence, Twitter and Facebook censorship around elections might just be ways these companies are trying to tell the public that they are aware of their importance during this period and are trying their best to ensure that their platforms are safe and reliable.
But as Facebook and Twitter continue to take down and censor tweets, take down comments or remove groups that have tried to claim election fraud (Trump-supporting groups mostly), some have accused these forms of media has violated the first amendment right to free speech as a lot of people have voiced their discontent stating that they should be allowed to air their views and that the power and audience these companies have makes it such that when they censor their tweets or comments then they are limiting the freedom of speech, a constitutional right.
It’s a complicated situation because most of these claims around election fraud are baseless and have no evidence to back it up, but also these are views of people who lost an election and should be allowed to say why they think they lost, and it’s in agreeing with the later part that has allowed the sudden explosion of the downloads and usage of Parley, with more than 4 million accounts recently launched within days, one has to ask if Parley is the next big tech?
Although pronounced as “PAR-lor”, Parley is gotten from the French “to speak” or “to talk” and the social media app has a lot of similarities to Twitter with posts also being able to be “echoed” (retweeted) and “upvoted” (liked) and users also having the ability to post messages on the platform and follow topics and news by also leveraging on hashtags.
Parley has actually launched two years ago, to be a “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user rights”, but its adoption has really accelerated since the 2020 U.S election as a lot of conservative celebrities (republicans) have moved to the platform due to the censorship on most of their tweets and posts on Twitter and Facebook that relate to their outburst regarding the just concluded election.”
Obviously, this is not the first time that social media platforms have sprung up to compete against Twitter or Facebook by claiming to be platforms of free speech with Gab being later removed from the Google and Apple play store after it became a place for Neo-Nazis and that might explain why Parley does ban some things like pornography, threats of violence, and support for terrorism.
However, it has become a home for posts that would most likely have been censored by Twitter or Facebook and thus a lot of high profile citizens(mostly republicans) have begun using the platform with notable names being Ted Cruz and Sean Hannity, a Texas Republican and Fox News Host, with both already boasting 2.6 million and 2million followers each.
Although Donald Trump is yet to become a user of the platform, the increasing rate of adoption of the platform is encouraging and it might be signs that Facebook or Twitter might also have a major competitor.
It’s obvious Parley is trying to offer what Twitter might offer but in a different dimension, in fact, the entire buzz around the platform is because it is similar to Twitter but with fewer restrictions and more open features.
The advantage of the Parley model is that as Twitter tries to recover from the effects of censorship, the platform might be positioning itself to take over and become more used, although, there are still lots of people who use Twitter and even most of the people who have adopted Parley still go on Twitter to tweet as they understand a large number of users on Twitter.
However, there are becoming more and more pro-privacy people all over the world with the new generation becoming increasingly skeptical of data privacy infringement and they seem to be open to platforms that are more transparent and less restrictive which Parley can become.
So, I predict as more and more people begin to use Parley, we are most likely to see more and more relaxed features on the platform especially around data privacy and algorithms that define what people see because the goal for a competitive platform like Parley whose success is built on being different, is to keep finding more and more ways to look different but in more liberal and supposedly progressive ways.
However, the technical part of this is usurping platforms like Facebook and Twitter and becoming the major player in the social media space, in fact, I think that their biggest obstruction to being big tech, is because they would want to be supposedly “progressive” and will try to avoid doing everything that makes big tech.
The clamor against big tech has been that they should be broken down because they have big data and big competitive bottlenecks, however, the advantage they built has been on unique big-data accumulation operations and leveraging on competitive bottlenecks (even though some might call them bad or unhealthy competitive moves).
Hence, if Parley tries to become a major social media platform, it might need to select between following the path taken by these competitors or taking the latter, while choosing the latter would most likely increase its popularity, it would however most likely reduce its chances of gaining the market competitive edge.
Will Parley be the next big tech? No one knows because business is dynamic. However, the signs indicate that more and more people would be open to platforms that preach more freedom and guarantee data privacy, and if Parley can keep building on that, they might have a shot, even if not immediately.