Over 50 fake accounts of prominent Republican figures have been discovered on Parler sharing links to buy Trump hats and coins while advertising and promoting CBD oil allegedly endorsed by the US first lady, Melania Trump, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday.
“Own A Piece Of History With President Trump’s Commemorative Medallion!” said Parler's @MikePenceVicePresident, cited by BuzzFeed News, urging people to order Trump coins and pay for shipping in a post that attracted over 170,000 views.
The office of the current US vice president, Mike Pence, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the account was fake, with Parler shutting it down shortly thereafter. Many more faux high-ranking GOP officials' accounts were discovered to be selling products marketed toward Trump supporters on the platform.
Among the fake accounts were masqueraders of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump Jr., and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
“I believe most of those fraudulent accounts were a sad attempt to circumvent our advertising network,” Parler CEO John Matze suggested, cited by BuzzFeed News.
According to the report, the wave of fake accounts indicates Parler's increasing popularity, but also shows "how Parler’s current growth spurt and freewheeling, anti-censorship ethos has created opportunities for manipulation and financial schemes".
"We would answer any and all claims about fake accounts on Parler by noting that our competitors experience a much larger, more dangerous influx of bots/fake accounts on a regular basis than we do, and they do less than we do, relatively speaking, to curtail the growth of fake accounts,” Amy Peikoff, Parler’s chief policy officer, told BuzzFeed News.
Parler poses as an alternative to mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, touting that it allows users to "speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being 'deplatformed' for your views".
The platform reportedly became more popular among conservatives, right-wing activists and Trump supporters, while many believe it also to be a pied-a-terre for fans of conspiracy theories.
According to Techcrunch, Parler enjoyed a surge in numbers amid many turning their backs on mainstream social media, claiming that platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are biased toward conservatives and criticising the social media for what they see as intensifying censorship during the 2020 election. In early November, Parler's CEO, John Matze, claimed that 4.5 million new accounts were registered on the platform in just a few days.
Parler's reluctance to fact-check content, however, has been assessed by BBC News as allowing misinformation to spread faster on Parler than on mainstream platforms.