Over the past few days, left-leaning Twitter has seemingly collectively rejoiced over the departure of a large number of right-leaning users following Donald Trump’s suspension on the platform. It’s understandable why. For the past four years, and, likely even farther back than that, Twitter has been a key battleground for the culture wars that far left and far right have been waging on each other, and what happened earlier this week has largely been taken as a first sign of retreat. But, even as it may be, conservatives leaving Twitter and Facebook for Parler is not necessarily a good thing.
I’ve commented a lot on how social platforms thrive on sowing large scale political discord through the algorithmic creation of virtual echo chambers, but the mass migration to Parler that we’re witnessing now marks a new step in virtual political division, one that maybe very difficult if not impossible to reverse. You see, while Twitter and Facebook were largely responsible for the creation of the first of these echo chambers, the fact that these platforms are inhabited by members from across the political spectrum means there is at least some defense against the spread of disinformation on them. However, platforms like Parler, (and Twitter, if the vacuum of conservative voices allows the platform to morph into a leftist echo chamber) that specifically target the far right or far left, will most likely not have these voices of dissidence there to challenge any disinformation present.
The ways in which current social networks afford the creation of echo chambers within them is dangerous enough, having a social network that is one big echo chamber poses an unprecedented threat to the safety of our nation and our ability to restore productive political discourse through the frequency of the spread of disinformation such a platform would afford alone. We cannot allow these types of platforms to take hold. We must, as a society, be willing to hear things that don’t do things to validate us. We must be able to hear the other side of the arguement. If we cannot, and in our failure to do so, we allow sites like Parler or Twitter to become fringe political echo chambers, I fear we will do irreversible damage to our society.