Amidst crackdown, Kenai Peninsula lawmakers amongst these shifting to unregulated social media
Rep. Sarah Vance’s MeWe account profile.
Kenai Peninsula’s lawmakers are among the millions of Conservatives who flock to Parler and MeWe, unregulated social media sites that grow in popularity as mainstream social media companies crack down on misinformation and extremism in elections.
Nikiski Republican Ben Carpenter said regulation is partly why he migrated to these platforms and deleted his personal and professional Facebook accounts. He said he was with Parler or MeWe in his capacity as an individual, not as an elected official.
“Why this platform over another platform? The answer is obvious, ”he said. “The owners of Facebook and Twitter are censoring conservative voices, and I don’t approve of that. I don’t think it’s American, but they have the right to do it as it is their personal business. “
Following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Facebook and Twitter banned President Trump and his allies for spreading falsehoods about electoral integrity and inciting violence.
But Parler and MeWe aren’t regulated, so users can post what they want – including hate speech and conspiracy theories.
Carpenter said another reason he switched is because he doesn’t think Facebook is conducive to conversations with constituents. He also doesn’t think Parler and MeWe are, which is why he said he probably won’t post on them in an “official capacity”.
Rep. Sarah Vance of Homer and Ron Gillham of Soldotna, both Republicans, are also on MeWe. Both continue to have active Facebook Pages.
Parler is currently offline as it was launched by App Stores and Amazon Web Services for not removing content that “encourages or incites violence against others”.
Experts say unregulated websites like Parler helped pro-Trump extremists organize the Jan. 6 uprising.
“What they are applying for – they accept themselves as completely unregulated platforms for free expression,” said Alex Newhouse, research director at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counter-Terrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In his studies of right-wing extremism, he paid attention to apps like Parler.
“In theory, this sounds pretty good to people who are concerned about free speech and the First Amendment,” he added. “In practice, however, this means that many groups and individuals who were created for very important and valid reasons, such as inciting violence and organizing terrorist attacks, end up on these platforms too.”
According to Newhouse, politicians are using alternative social media to converse with voters and address their more conservative base. He said it was a worrying trend as more mainstream conservatives were being siphoned through the same channels as open extremists.
“These politicians are becoming lightning rods, where this kind of mishmash of different amalgamations of different tribes of the Conservative movement by and large occurs,” he said. “Without realizing how her presence affects it and how she attracts people from all parts of the spectrum, it’s very dangerous. And it contributes to the radicalization of normal people. I am very concerned about the presence of politicians on such unregulated platforms. “
Rep. Carpenter said he didn’t think removing such sites would remove the risk of violence. And the regulation of social media is a violation of freedom of expression.
Soldotna Republican Senator Peter Micciche said he had no plans to move to any of these alternative locations. He was just saying that Facebook is a great way for him to communicate with the people in his district.
“I will rely more on newsletters so that not every topic is politicized. But I will see how I can most effectively reach my constituents, ”he said. “I don’t know what my long-term decision will be.”
Neither Gillham nor Vance would respond to requests for comment by airtime. Representatives arrive in Juneau this week at the beginning of the legislature.