Parler Attempting to Come Back Online, Still Insisting The Site's Motivation Is 'Privacy' Despite Leaking Details On All Its Users

from the about-that dept

Last week, I explained my thoughts on why the Parler takedown from AWS didn’t bother me that much — considering that there were many other cloud and webhosting solutions out there. Yet Parler has quickly discovered that many other providers aren’t interested in hosting the company’s cesspool of garbage content either. As I pointed out, at some point, some element of that has to be on Parler for attracting such an audience of garbage-spewers. Either way, we figured the site would eventually be back up, and now it appears that it’s on its way. The site put up a holding page with a few “Parlezs” (their version of tweets) from its execs and lead cheerleaders.

The site appears to be using Epik for hosting and DDoSGuard for DDoS protection. Neither of these are that surprising. Epik has built up something of a specialty in hosting the garbage, hate-filled websites no one else wants to touch. It has hosted Gab, 8chan/8kun, and The Daily Stormer among others. DDoSGuard is a somewhat sketchy Russian company that provides services to an equally sketchy group of sites — and some terrorist groups. Brian Krebs has recently discussed how DDoSGuard may create some significant liability issues:

A review of the several thousand websites hosted by DDoS-Guard is revelatory, as it includes a vast number of phishing sites and domains tied to cybercrime services or forums online.

Replying to requests for comment from a CBSNews reporter following up on my Oct. 2020 story, DDoS-Guard issued a statement saying, “We observe network neutrality and are convinced that any activity not prohibited by law in our country has the right to exist.”

But experts say DDoS-Guard’s business arrangement with a Denver-based publicly traded data center firm could create legal headaches for the latter thanks to the Russian company’s support of Hamas.

Ooof. There’s a lot more in Krebs’ writeup.

But what struck me as most ridiculous about Parler’s holding page (beyond trying to hide behind MLK Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as if Parler’s raging nut job userbase is somehow oppressed) is that the company is still claiming that beyond being a place for (a misunderstood concept of) “free speech,” that the impetus behind the site was about “protecting privacy.”

That reads:

Now seems like the right time to remind you all — both lovers and haters — why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both.

We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!

The “privacy is paramount” line is one that Parler really only started spewing more recently. Rebekah Mercer used a similar line when she outed herself as a co-founder of the platform and it never made any sense at all. After all, Mercer was also behind Cambridge Analytica, a company involved in what is now considered one of the biggest privacy breaches in the history of social media. The whole “privacy” claim seemed like little more than a convenient talking point to pretend that their approach was somewhat different than Facebook’s or Google’s.

But in the case of Parler, it’s even more ridiculous. After all, this was a company that required users who wanted to get its version of “verified” to hand over their social security numbers. And, of course, before Parler shut down, a hacker was able to grab nearly the entire corpus of Parler posts, including pictures and videos that did not have location metadata stripped out. This allowed multiple reporters to find and highlight Parler users as they stormed the Capitol, exposing exactly who was raiding the Capitol and what evidence they revealed about their own activities. Indeed, it’s becoming clear that law enforcement is using this data to go around arresting tons of people.

Doesn’t seem that privacy protecting, after all, now does it?

Of course, much of this seems to be due to just plain old incompetence, rather than malice. Last week there was also a fascinating thread on Parler’s clueless CTO, who didn’t seem to understand some fairly basic things about running a large internet-scale service. That thread, by software engineer Sarah Mei is worth reading, if only to reach the conclusion, that Parler “might have done better with four ferrets in a trench coat.”

So, yes, the site may be coming back, but to say that it takes privacy seriously, while asking for social security numbers, hosted on a dodgy host, with a DDoS provider best known for its Russian home-base and its willingness to provide services to terrorists and online criminals… I would suggest that anyone who thinks of Parler as supportive of privacy, do so at their own risk.

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Comments on “Parler Attempting to Come Back Online, Still Insisting The Site's Motivation Is 'Privacy' Despite Leaking Details On All Its Users”

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63 Comments
hijsays:

Dangerous to monitor

The decision to use Epik and DDoSGuard makes it problematic for journalists to monitor the site and document what is being posted. A number of US politicians used the site to share posts, and now Parler is doing their best to create a firewall to keep out people smart enough to stay away from the honey pot.

Uriel-238says:

Journalists and black hats

Black-hat work seems to make more money than journalism, white-hat work or police work. I suspect that whatever resources journalists and police have, black-hats do as well.

At any rate investigators (journalist and otherwise) are already finding ways to get themselves on Parler and report what they see and what kind of mischief can be made.

PaulTsays:

Re: Journalists and black hats

"Black-hat work seems to make more money than journalism, white-hat work or police work."

Well, sure. Real journalism and actual police work are rare enough that you only have to pay a handful of people anyway, and white hats spend half their lives fighting off legal action from the people they helped locate potential company-killing security errors.

Uriel-238says:

Real journalism and actual police work

I suspect there’s enough of both to go around, at least hire those who are doing it.

And yes, it’s troubling that corporations seem glad to pay their lawyers to sue white-hats rather than paying their (meager) fee and some technicians to bolster their security. That’s not encouraging at all.

If I infer from you correctly that it would be better if real journalists, real police detectives and real white-hats all got better compensation for their efforts so that black-hatting wasn’t as tempting, I entirely agree.

PaulTsays:

Re: Real journalism and actual police work

Yes, the world would certainly be a better place if those people were compensated better, along with care workers and teachers, rather than trust fund managers and the military industrial complex. Although, sadly, it’s not just about money. The rot with law enforcement goes far beyond what a simple pay rise for decent public servants would fix, and the press’s need to value celebrity gossip and damaging propaganda over investigative journalism will be a tough nut to crack even when such a thing is more commonplace.

As someone whose job it is partially to protect from and repair damage from the black hats, it would be nice if there were less of them. But they’re not the biggest problem facing the world, by a long shot.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Dangerous to monitor

"if they continue to require a photo ID and track movements then everybody using the site has to balance their privacy concerns with the desire to access the site"

Somehow I don’t think that anyone dumb enough to have agreed to provide that information the first time around, used that toxic mess of a site and then liked it enough to go through all that again is the most logical thinker you’ll ever encounter.

Unless QAnon include Parler in their new round of enemies they’re making up as we speak, they’re probably fine.

Uriel-238says:

Making IDs

If you submit a picture of a state ID, a photo is super easy to shop to look like someone else. Easier still if they don’t call in somewhere to check if the ID number is associated with the name.

(This is a workaround for places of employment if you can encourage their HR to let you send them a scan rather than bringing the ID to HR. See how clever subversives can be?)

Private detectives and investigative journalists are typically all over these tricks.

PS: If you need an SSN, use Elvis Presley’s: 425-26-8732. He’s not using it right now.

CallmeStevesays:

Re: Facts & truth!

I agree. We can just say Russian collusion repeatedly and eventually people will remember only that and it will become fact. This is a technique used most prominently by media or those who pretend to be a reporter to push some agenda that they believe regardless of the facts. Just like the writer of the article here. I am sure he "fact checked" all his claims and not just used "sources close" to Parler or just don’t even mention facts and go with the hearsay. We have become lazy. Reporters have become lazy, the readers because to many words to read and I just cannot be bothered. We just read the headlines along with the first sentence and form opinions – Just like mister JoeDetroit.

Uriel-238says:

Stealing Parler identities

If those identities come with credit card information, they could start porn sites. (When my identity was stolen by hackers in Ukraine, they used my credit card to rent hosting space for a porn website.)

Hacktivists might empty bank accounts and credit cards into laundering sites and forwarded into hate-watch and poverty relief charities, if we want to go full cyberpunk.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re:

"You’re assuming that anyone would want to steal their identities"

While the cliche is that Trump supported are dirt-eating rednecks, a surprisingly and depressingly reasonable number of them seem to have failed upwards like their hero. The question is how many of them have money left after funnelling millions to Trump’s "legal fund" (i.e. his pockets).

Uriel-238says:

Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

Hamas has graduated from terrorist group to political faction that sometimes uses terrorist methods. And while it has plenty of policies that I don’t like, it gives a modicum of representation to peoples that are regarded as non-persons by the international community, especially those who are allies to Israel.

Hamas has a military wing. The US engages in drone strikes and targeted killings which remain without question in the realm of terrorism and may have a higher civilian casualty count than Hamas (The Afghanistan drone strike campaign averaged 40,000 civilian deaths a year. But it’s ebbing and the Pakistanian program is in full swing. I don’t have any numbers for Hamas.)

And the US Federal government is teeming with MAGA and QAnon adherents who hold and base policy on counterfactual claims.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

"Between MAGA and Hamas, the former may actually be the greater terrorist threat."

Well…yes. And then again, no.

They’re a greater threat because the pseudo-literate morons in the MAGA crowd are so routinely ignored or sidelined by US law enforcement they might as well be wearing bona fide invisibility cloaks.

They are a lesser threat because the militant wing of Hamas consists of those who have survived decades of being actively hunted by some of the sharpest and most ruthless knives in a modern well-trained military with overt national funding, while living in the back yard of said military.

The MAGA crowd instead consists of;
…the entitled crackpot conspiracy theorists unable to cope with factual reality who regularly conflate their first world problems and fairy tale pseudo-religious narrative with immediate and present danger;
…uneducated lower-to-middle class couch potatoes who have never seen or heard of a burglary in their whole lives but have become convinced the dark forces of the Kenyan Muslim are coming for their guns and the satanist child-trafficking minions of Hillary are coming for their children;
…ex-military grunts and NCO’s and failed cops compensating for tthe loss of their old job by joining a militia, putting on tricorn hats, and exploring a fantasy where their "troops" of 2A fanatics and aggressive Klan members follow their self-appointed "general" in training for the Uprising.

I’m pretty sure if Hamas had organized that shindig at the Capitol with the advantage of US law enforcement providing them similar leeway as was extended to the Proud Boys, confederates and nazis, then the Capitol would be smoking ruins rather than largely untouched save for a few broken windows, and the poop smears one of these benighted fuckwits saw fit to tread into the carpets.

Uriel-238says:

The clenched fist of MAGA

I figure the might and political clout of team MAGA are their adherents who are agents-in-place…that is if they act to serve their cause and not their station. I’m not willing to rule out some might actually have a sense of duty.

As of today, the drone strike programs are in the hands of Biden. I suspect signing an order to stop the sorties cold is not on his first-week agenda. Or even first one-hundred days.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: The clenched fist of MAGA

"As of today, the drone strike programs are in the hands of Biden. I suspect signing an order to stop the sorties cold is not on his first-week agenda. Or even first one-hundred days."

We can pretty much declare the first term of Biden’s presidency – undoing Trump. He’ll be spending half the time re-signing treaties and budget extensions Trump pulled out of or refused, reverse budget cuts on vital agencies, sacking the cadre of trumpian bootlickers in favor of actually competent people.
The other half of his time will be spent trying to desperately fight Covid while 74 million americans will be going directly against his recommendations just because he’s a perceived liberal and fuck those guys, at any cost.

And he’ll be doing all of that while on his knees praying that even though Trump’s decisions have knocked out many of the pillars holding the sky up – in the form of the economy and jobs – it doesn’t fall on him in the last half of his term in office, because if he isn’t re-elected the next person in the white house will be Trump v2.

Drone strikes aren’t going to be on that agenda unless it’s as an inherent part of the new US foreign policy meant to convey "We aren’t inbred and rude raving lunatic hillbillies pandering to dictators any longer!"

Uriel-238says:

Gangs in the United States

Another opportunity to plug the You’re Wrong About podcast. In the episode on Gangs, Michael Hobbes deconstructs the notions we have about street gangs, which had — in the minds of law enforcement and news media — developed an Antifa-like reputation in the nineties as a pervasive well-armed threat that dominates municipal centers. (Gangs picked up the bogeyman mantle dropped by the serial killers of the seventies and eighties, and later taken up by the Islamist terrorists of the aughts.)

One question was how a street gang can be a pack of uncivilized feral teens who cannot be negotiated with, except through violence and yet is simultaneously a global syndicate vertically stacked producers and distributors of drugs, with prostitution, booking and hit jobs on the side.

Amusingly, the Saints Row series of video games capitalized on the notion that street kids wearing gang colors could elevate themselves to international celebrity with armies of homies and fleets of gunships by sheer force of will and street-cred.

Oversight reviews of collected dossiers on street gangs by Violent Gang Task Forces (The FBI has one) revealed they have about as much actual data on youth groups and drug supply networks as Heinrich Kramer did regarding witches when he wrote the Malleus Maleficarum. These reports were less about understanding the street-teen gang-member as demonizing him so he could be easily dispatched.

So at the point that even when Wikipedia has an article on Juggalo gangs, I’m skeptical — pending evidence — that it’s anything more than either a) ICP fans who might also have other gang identities or motives to engage in gang behavior? or b) ICP fans who are driven by more common reasons to resort to crime (drug withdrawal will do it).

? Gangs often form as an ad hoc neighborhood watch, especially when another gang is shaking a community down. Since the 1990s, the most common gang to move into a town and cause trouble has been: law enforcement.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

"The FBI should put MAGA & QAnon on the Gangs hotlist instead of calling them terrorists."

Politically troublesome given that last time the FBI investigated the white supremacy crowd a very significant overlap was found between active law enforcement personnel and white power group membership. Go google "The FBI warned for years that police are cozy with the far right. Is no one listening?" by Mike German.

In short, putting a large number of police officers on the Gangs hotlist will present a few problems, given that it would mean a significant proportion of police officers would have to keep their current partner under observation.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

"Meh, Trump managed 10x that number of Americans in less than a year"

Not quite true. If Trump had done anything else – like sitting on his hands, or not actively peddling snake oil and false information the death toll would still have been somewhere around 50k or so. Statistically proportionate to what the rest of the world experienced.

So he’s only personally responsible for about 8 out of 10 of the dead americans resulting from the pandemic.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

The problem is, the killing doesn’t stop just because a competent leader gets sworn in. The cultists will still refuse to act like sensible adults, the currently infected will still die to some proportion, the states about to run out of vaccines will still do so. It will take weeks, perhaps months, to start turning things around – assuming that new strains and the like don’t make that task even more impossible in the short term.

The sad thing – is that 50k that would have happened if Trump was competent? That’s the number that died so far this month, and you can expect that as a bare minimum again before Biden has a chance for any of his policies to be enacted, even assuming zero friction from either the senate or the public (and we both know that won’t be the case)

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Hamas has graduated from "Terrorist group"

"The problem is, the killing doesn’t stop just because a competent leader gets sworn in. The cultists will still refuse to act like sensible adults, the currently infected will still die to some proportion, the states about to run out of vaccines will still do so."

74 million alone – 1 in 3 americans – are likely to do the direct opposite of anything recommended by the Biden administration. It’s the politically appropriate and "patriotic" thing to do among that crowd of benighted nincompoops. Sure, governors and Biden can take steps to stop a few vectors of infection but by and large nothing the government does will reverse that trend.

"The sad thing – is that 50k that would have happened if Trump was competent? That’s the number that died so far this month, and you can expect that as a bare minimum again before Biden has a chance for any of his policies to be enacted…"

Yep, and I envision most of the republican party to immediately lose what little cameraderie they mustered in ridding themselves of the stain of being connected to the screaming orange they’d been cuddling with for so long. In favor of bagging votes by claiming the pandemic is all Bidens fault and laying every corpse at the doorstep of the democratic party.

"…even assuming zero friction from either the senate or the public (and we both know that won’t be the case)"

I am guessing both you and I are seeing a very plausible vision of GOP senators desperately opposing everything Biden does while blaming him for every bad thing Trump set in motion which will take effect in the current administration. And Trump’s old base latching on to whoever in the senate screams the loudest.

Kobysays:

Public Information

And, of course, before Parler shut down, a hacker was able to grab nearly the entire corpus of Parler posts, including pictures and videos that did not have location metadata stripped out.

If users upload video or photographs that contain metadata, that’s a choice of the user, not the platform. It’s like complaining that a bot crawled your website and saw all the stuff.

PaulTsays:

Re: Public Information

"If users upload video or photographs that contain metadata, that’s a choice of the user, not the platform"

Most platforms won’t store that data, if for nothing else because they usually convert them to a format that’s preferable to the platform, which will usually strip metadata in the process.

"It’s like complaining that a bot crawled your website and saw all the stuff."

Strangely, that seems to be what happened here (someone noticed a flaw in their APIs and wrote a script that pulled all the data down). But, still, users should have a reasonable expection of basic security on the site.

Oh, and you’re making the basic mistake of assuming that Parler’s target audience would even know what metadata is, let alone how to remove it. There is no evidence they’re close to being that aware of how things work.

Anonymoussays:

a cesspool of garbage

Dear Mike,

I think this article is beneath you. Numerous incendiary claims.

I understand that "moderation at scale is impossible" is your beat, but I hoped to see some deeper political analysis here. The Trump support base has lots of elements that ‘nice people’ wouldn’t like; xenophobes, mysogynists, racists, white supremicists etc.. But, I dont want to tar them all with the same brush. I see a lot of very unhappy working class USA’ers of varying political stripes. They have been fuc*ed over by the neoliberal and neoconservative establishment "make money, preserve the empire, offshore the jobs, control the narrative" bullshit for 3 decades, and they are rightly pissed.

I contend that a large marjority of the disaffected have no belief in either political party in the USA (and I contend that the same is now true in the UK). But, they get onto the major social media platforms, get addicted to the gratification dope and then many of the shit heads and grifters (and plain wingnuts like
Alex Jones) get deplatformed, shadow banned, algorithmically suppressed (in the name of promoting trustworthy sources) and fuck it, they go to Parler. Which was always the out from those defending the big platforms; if you dont like us, go somewhere else. And now, the biggies collude to crush that platform.

Where do you think this goes? What do you think the motivation is? How do you think the disaffected will answer that question?

Sure, label Parler as a cesspool of whatever and describe its efforts of re-emerge as working with other shady outfits. I couldn’t give a shit about Mercer funded Parler and the idiots spouting shit on it. But, I do understand that there are a lot of rightfully incensed people having their voices suppressed by powerful companies, and though I dont like what they’re saying, I worry very much for YOU USA’ers as to where this will go in a country with more assault rifles than I can count.

Here’s what I hope. Firstly, I entirely support your idea of "protocols not platforms" and the more that the new emergent social media players understand this, the better. But new is what we need. The existing stinks to high heaven. And, post the 6th riot there is a push for more censorship and repression. That will create the motive for the new, and that will encourage the surveillance state to infiltrate and suppress them too. Its always this way.

Root problems: no decent life, shitty education system. Thus, angry uninformed populace.

Calling those disaffected uneducated masses a cesspool of garbage aint helping no one.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: a cesspool of garbage

"Calling those disaffected uneducated masses a cesspool of garbage aint helping no one."

There’s an argument to be made that although nothing will really help, diplomacy, tact, and not just writing those disaffected ignorant morons off as "idiots" will be more harmful than the alternative.

We’re talking about 74 million people here who have proven themselves utterly incapable of learning ANY other answer to their problems but "fuck liberals". It’s a religion of sorts, resistant to observable reality. It’s not curable. Not something you can fix without uprooting the long-held belief that liberals bear all the blame for every bad thing to happen to them, even in cases where the guilty party is bitingly obvious.

Every attempt to accommodate these malicious fuckwits does active harm, because it’s what has encouraged them to get to this point, where wild conspiracy theories and narratives of Evil, just because have become normalized.

It’s like you really couldn’t get the south to let go of slavery without a war. These people need to be cast from every aspect of civilized society and held at bay until the next generation comes along and hopefully learns that being an incurably stupid asshole is rightly a matter of shame rather than pride.

This isn’t a good way to handle things, admittedly.
It just happens to be the best way, and the only one which won’t entrench and reward deplorable behavior the way it has thus far.

cradesays:

Re: Leaking Details

Well they probably actually respond to warnings before getting booted off?

Scratch that they did the work and host themselves so they are independent, there is no data center to "kick them off".. But I’m sure if they were hosted by someone else they would respect their agreement with them and act on any contract failures on their part before they got completely booted off and would have a fallback plan if the disagreement couldn’t be resolved amicably

CallmeStevesays:

Re: ?making a good faith effort?

I guess we need to agree on what a "good faith effort" is and how evenly the standards are applied which is the center of the problem.

I heard an interview with the CEO of Parler and he offered to use AWS A.I. tech and AWS said that was not good enough. So if that is true, it does not matter how well they were doing in moderation it seems like the decision was already made to give them the boot.

The rules need to be applied evenly across all posts/tweets/parlez or whatever they call them. When it is not, we get issues like this. Who knows, maybe this was done on purpose to push more censorship or government control.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: ?making a good faith effort?

"I heard an interview with the CEO of Parler and he offered to use AWS A.I. tech and AWS said that was not good enough"

It wouldn’t have been, and I suspect they only raised that to fool people who think that AI is some magical solution that requires no major good faith effort on the part of those implementing it. Amazon understand their own tech to know this is not true.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: ?making a good faith effort?

Hah, figures. One thing that because apparent over the last few years is that when you’re talking to people developing startups or who think they are developing a unique solution for a problem, they throw around the terms "A.I.", "machine learning" and "blockchain" as if they’re magic incantations. Dig deeper as to why they think that tech is revolutionary, or even needed for their project, and they’re usually not sure how, they just use the buzzwords to cover the part of development they haven’t properly done yet.

That’s all that happened here, I suspect – someone wanted to throw around buzzwords to try and impress management types, but were forgetting they were addressing the people who actually developed the tech they were referring to.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: ?making a good faith effort?

The rules need to be applied evenly

Since when? Build your own, or you follow the rules of the hosting provider they chose to do business with.

Funny how small government conservatives want "rules" to be enforced when it’s convenient, and let the free market decide when it isn’t convenient.

bhull242says:

Re: Re: ?making a good faith effort?

I guess we need to agree on what a "good faith effort" is and how evenly the standards are applied which is the center of the problem.

I?m not sure that ?good faith efforts? need to be evenly applied, but the one making the claim should be showing evidence on how evenly the standards are applied.

I heard an interview with the CEO of Parler and he offered to use AWS A.I. tech and AWS said that was not good enough. So if that is true, it does not matter how well they were doing in moderation it seems like the decision was already made to give them the boot.

The AWS A.I. tech Parler suggested using was facial recognition software. It is completely and utterly useless for moderation efforts, so of course AWS said that wasn?t good enough.

The rules need to be applied evenly across all posts/tweets/parlez or whatever they call them. When it is not, we get issues like this.

Again, show the evidence that they are not applied evenly, then we?ll talk.

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