Practical Technology

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Parler, the right-wing social network is dead, but a zombie webpage remains

After Amazon Web Services (AWS)  Amazon Web Services (AWS) shut down the right-wing social network Parler, Parler CEO John Matze claimed Parler will be back with “many competing for our business.” Well. No. That didn’t turn out to be the case. But, a simple one-page Parler website is up and running on an Epik-hosted server.

Epik is a tiny, approximately 50 employees, domain registrar, and web hosting company based in Bellevue, Washington. It’s best known for hosting fake-news, far-right and neo-Nazi websites such as InfoWars, Gab, and The Daily Stormer. 

Curiously, Epik officially denied having any “contact or discussions with Parler in any form regarding our organization becoming their registrar or hosting provider: on January 11, 2021. A whois search reveals, however, that on that same day, Epik became Parler’s internet domain registry

In its statement, though, Epik also denounced the “kneejerk reaction” of major companies “deplatforming and terminating any relationship that on the surface looks problematic or controversial.” Besides AWS, Apple and Google removed the Parler smartphone client. As Matze himself has said on Fox News, no one wants to work with Parler after Amazon dropped the company. Matze concluded, bringing Parler back up is “basically impossible.”

Parler’sIP address itself is owned by  DDoS-Guard.  This Russian-owned company also hosts QAnon, 8chan, and the terrorist group Hamas. According to security expert Brian Krebs, “A review of the several thousand websites hosted by DDoS-Guard … includes a vast number of phishing sites and domains tied to cybercrime services or forums online.”

An image, purporting to show Parler’s server hardware requirements, shows the social network needs a minimum of 11,680 virtual CPUs; an internal network capable of dealing with at least 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps); and an internet connection that can handle 100 Gbps. That is well beyond Epik’s capabilities. To bring Parler back as it was would require the support of a major cloud provider. 

Bringing up a one-page website, however, is trivial. 

On the site, the following message now appears: “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!”

Despite those claims, users have long accused Parler of censoring them. For example, users claimed that Parler blocked a variety of hashtags concerning the recent Georgia Senator election.  Liberal users who went to Parler claim they soon found their content removed and their accounts shut down.  

In the meantime, Parler’s pathetic security was easily cracked. Thanks to the efforts of a hacker who goes by the Twitter handle @donk_enby and  The Archive Team almost all of Parler users’ messages, videos, and photographs have been saved to the Internet Archives. This data is now being used by developers to track Parler users’ activities.  

The first major use of Parler’s data was by a programmer who goes by the Twitter handle Patr10tic. This person has created an interactive map named yall-Qaeda. It uses Parler GPS metadata and videos to show where Parler terrorists were inside and around during Trump’s extremists attack on the Capitol building on January 6th. Other efforts are afoot to use Parler’s data to reveal what its members have been saying and doing.

Parler as a zombie is back. For Parler to come back as a full and working social network is, if anything given its security failures and technology requirements, seems incredibly unlikely.


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