A vigilante hacker has leaked a massive trove of content published to social media platform Parler, which is said to have been used to orchestrate the assault on the US Capitol Building last week.
The right-leaning social network is currently offline after Amazon Web Services, which provided the infrastructure necessary for Parler to operate, pulled the plug over apparent insufficiencies in the platform’s content moderation policy.
But before Parler fell offline, Twitter user @donk_enby was able to scrape 70TB of posts, messages and videos, all of which are linked to the accounts that published them. The scrape is said to have picked up 99.9% of the content ever posted to the platform, including deleted items.
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It has been suggested the scrape was made possible after cloud communications company Twilio became the latest in a line of partners to abandon Parler, leaving the platform without user ID verification tools.
In a statement announcing its decision, Twilio set out the services that would be withdrawn from the social network, which is said to have given hackers the information they needed to gain privileged access to areas of Parler infrastructure that would otherwise have been inaccessible.
Twilio has contested these allegations, however, and claims there is no evidence the security exploit was linked with its services.
Parler data leak
Marketed as the “free speech” social network, Parler is renowned for its laissez-faire attitude to content moderation and CEO John Matze has long resisted any form of “user surveillance”.
For this reason, Parler was the odds-on favorite to become the platform of choice for disgraced US President Donald Trump after he was banned from Twitter and Facebook last week. In the aftermath, Parler also topped the Apple App Store download charts for a brief period.
Since the storming of the Capitol Building, however, a raft of partners have come out against the social network. Both Apple and Google, which control the two largest mobile application stores in the world, removed Parler from their marketplaces over violent content that remained live on the platform.
The nail in the coffin, though, was delivered by Amazon Web Services, which has effectively barred Parler from the public internet. The social network has reportedly found it impossible to secure another content distribution partner, made untouchable by its political associations and the bans implemented by Apple and Google.
In response to accusations that the decision to ban Parler was politically motivated, technology firms like AWS have stated that they encourage a diversity of opinions but cannot allow websites or apps to encourage acts of violence.
According to @donk_enby, the data scrape was conducted in the name of preserving evidence of criminal wrongdoing. However, the leak affected all Parler users without prejudice, not just those suspected of using the platform to incite violence.
The incident has added yet more fuel to debates over the ethics and legality of the Parler boycott, the deplatforming of Donald Trump and the need for new regulation targeting the world’s largest technology and social media companies.
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Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.