Parler Tries to Survive With Assist From Russian Firm
Parler, the popular social network among Trump supporters, is coming back to life.
The social network went offline last week after Amazon booted it from its computer servers for not consistently removing violent posts, an allegation Parler denied. But after a week of Parler executives suing Amazon, predicting their website may never return, they predict it will be up and running again by the end of the month.
This turnaround is due in part to a Russian company.
Parler has entered into business with DDoS-Guard, a Russian company that routes internet traffic and protects websites from cyber attacks. With his help, Parler.com visitors can now find a simple webpage with a promise by Parler’s CEO John Matze that “our return is inevitable”.
However, the use of a Russian company worries some researchers studying the Internet and Russia. If Parler routes its web traffic via DDoS-Guard when the full website returns, Russian law could allow the Russian government to monitor Parler’s users.
Alina Polyakova, director of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a foreign policy think tank in Washington, said Russia is requiring many internet companies in the country to install technology that will provide the government with a copy of much of the data transmitted through their computer servers.
The surveillance system, known as the Operational Investigation System, “basically allows the Russian government to intercept all data on Russian territory and make that data available to the FSB,” said Russian intelligence agency Ms. Polyakova, who is investigating Russia’s control did on the internet. She added that it was unclear whether DDoS-Guard would be subject to such monitoring.
The Russian Embassy in Washington and DDoS Guard did not respond to requests for comments. In an email to CNN, DDoS-Guard said it “does not disclose customer information or other data to government agencies, except as specifically provided by law”.
Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s Chief Operating Officer, said in an interview that the concerns are exaggerated as DDoS-Guard only supports a temporary website for Parler. He said Parler would try to find other companies to run his entire social network.
“We prefer an American company,” he said. “People shouldn’t be drawing any conclusions that this company will be it. People extrapolate too much and with limited information. They close what they want to close. I call this dissemination of misinformation. “
However, since the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Parler has faced a challenge in finding willing partners.
After supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol, Twitter and Facebook banned Mr. Trump from their services. That sent a flurry of new people to Parler, pushing it past 15 million users. Then Apple and Google removed Parler’s app from their app stores, and Amazon stopped hosting Parler’s website on its servers because Parler didn’t consistently remove violent posts. Parler not only denied these claims, but also accused the companies of collusion.
Since then, other companies have turned Parler off. Mr. Matze said in a lawsuit on Monday that “at least six extremely large potential vendors” refused to take over Parler’s business because they feared cyberattacks or believed Parler had incited violence.
“Parler is an Internet company that can not get on the Internet,” said Parler’s lawyer David Groesbeck on Monday in a separate file. “And the longer Parler is dead, the harder it will be to revive.”
Recognition…Parler.Com Website / Via Reuters
However, in press releases, Parler executives predict a full return by the end of January. Mr. Wernick declined to say how Parler would do it, but attributed the trust to a “Herculean effort” by his team.
“We don’t sleep,” he said. “We work day and night and every day. There is no weekend for us. “
For Parler, the ideal solution would be to return to Amazon’s servers. The network has accused Amazon of violating antitrust laws and asked a federal judge to force it to take in Parler. After a hearing last week, the companies are now waiting for a decision.
Many online watchers and journalists have speculated that Parler will at some point be hosted by Epik, a company that has endorsed other websites that have been rejected by tech companies, including Gab, another social network popular in right-wing circles.
But Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Epik, said in an interview that Epik only helped register Parler’s domain name, a fundamental function of the Internet. While Epik would like to help, Parler’s needs are too great.
“I would expect Parler to be an amazing force forever in the future,” he said. “I could see they easily hit 100 million members or more in 2021 alone.”
Mr Davis said he believed Parler tried to build its own infrastructure. On Monday, Mr. Matze appeared to support this idea in an interview on Fox News, saying, “We really need to build our own infrastructure and technology.”
In a legal act tabled on the same day, Mr. Matze said Parler does not have “the technical and security expertise to host the Parler environment itself,” adding, “It is also not feasible for Parler to do so.”
He said the computers and other equipment needed to host Parler’s location would cost more than $ 6 million and would take weeks to arrive. “Simply put, Parler would not be able to acquire the necessary servers and associated security infrastructure in an economically reasonable time frame,” he said.
Dave Temkin, an engineer who ran Netflix’s internet infrastructure team until last week, said he was skeptical that Parler would return anytime soon as infrastructure was difficult to build and other companies were unwilling to help.
Even if Parler were to set up its own data center in the US, an Internet provider like Verizon or AT&T would have to be convinced to lay the fiber optic cables to connect it to the wider Internet.
“It’s like having a car with no roads,” he said.