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Par­ler posts dur­ing riot re­port­edly are hacked

- Mor­gan Hines and Kelly Tyko Tech · Social Media · Hacking · Information Security · Donald Trump · Washington · Twitter · United States of America · Amazon · Google · Apple Inc · Paris · Rutgers University · Internet Archive Wayback Machine · Facebook · iPhone · Britt

As thou­sands of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers swarmed Washington last week, one hacker archived their posts on Par­ler to help re­con­struct the role the so­cial me­dia plat­form played in the deadly as­sault on the Capi­tol.

The hacker, who goes by @donk_enby on Twit­ter, said her goal was to pre­serve ev­ery post from Wed­nes­day’s Capi­tol breach be­fore the Par­ler plat­form was taken down, like “a bunch of peo­ple run­ning into a burn­ing build­ing try­ing to grab as many things as we can.”

Par­ler and @donk_enby didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to USA TO­DAY’s re­quests for com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the At­lantic Coun­cil, Par­ler is one of the so­cial me­dia plat

forms pop­u­lar with con­ser­va­tives and ex­trem­ists that was used to plan last week’s ri­ots. Others cited in­clude Gab and MeWe.

The Par­ler web­site went dark early Mon­day af­ter Ama­zon’s web host­ing ser­vice sus­pended the com­pany. It was the lat­est step taken by tech com­pa­nies in re­sponse to the Capi­tol siege. Google and Ap­ple also re­moved the Par­ler app from their app stores.

“We are still learn­ing the ex­tent the plat­form was used by in­sur­rec­tion­ists to plan and ex­e­cute the Jan. 6th breach of the Capi­tol,” Britt Paris, a crit­i­cal in­for­mat­ics scholar and as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity who tracks mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, said.

“As Capi­tol metadata spe­cial­ists and in­de­pen­dent se­cu­rity re­searchers ac­cess th­ese troves of scraped mes­sages – which in­clude mes­sages deleted in the af­ter­math of Jan. 6th – we will see a clearer pic­ture of the role Par­ler played in the at­tack,” Paris said.

A group of ac­tivist hack­ers also sal­vaged much of what hap­pened on Par­ler be­fore it went off­line and plans to put it in a pub­lic archive, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

The down­load­ing and ar­chiv­ing of con­tent from Par­ler, in­clud­ing im­age files that can be tied to geo­graphic lo­ca­tions, has rat­tled Par­ler users, though law en­force­ment would likely have been able to ac­cess the data any­way, and ex­perts said the archive does not in­clude in­for­ma­tion that was not pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble.

“If this wasn’t done, we would only have frag­ments and scraps of the in­for­ma­tion that was on Par­ler be­fore the take­down,” said Gabriella Cole­man, an an­thro­pol­o­gist at McGill Uni­ver­sity who has stud­ied hacker move­ments.

“It’s im­por­tant be­cause th­ese fo­rums are in­creas­ingly where peo­ple come to­gether to or­ga­nize them­selves. You learn about mo­ti­va­tions, ide­o­log­i­cal tac­tics.”

Par­ler archive: What’s in the data

Hacker @donk_enby‘s archived ma­te­rial lives at ArchiveTea­m.org. Ac­cord­ing to @donk_enby, “only things that were avail­able pub­licly via the web were archived.”

Giz­modo re­ported that the ma­te­rial even­tu­ally will be hosted by the In­ter­net Archive.

The archived ma­te­rial in­cludes “orig­i­nal, un­pro­cessed, raw files as up­loaded to Par­ler with all as­so­ci­ated metadata,” the hacker said Sun­day. Later, the hacker shared a tweet con­tain­ing a screen­shot of metadata in­cluded in the up­load with lo­ca­tion data such as GPS lon­gi­tude and GPS lat­i­tude.

Mon­day night she also tweeted about where to find the “metadata from all 30TB of those videos.” The cache of data is not yet eas­ily read­able by non-ex­perts.

Par­ler law­suit

Par­ler be­came pop­u­lar among con­ser­va­tives as a much more loosely mod­er­ated fo­rum dur­ing the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cy­cle when both Face­book and Twit­ter be­gan more ag­gres­sively polic­ing and la­bel­ing con­tent.

Last week af­ter Face­book, Twit­ter and other main­stream so­cial me­dia plat­forms si­lenced Trump’s ac­counts over com­ments that in­cited Wed­nes­day’s storm­ing of the Capi­tol, the 2year-old plat­form wel­comed a surge of new users and be­came the No. 1 free app on iPhones. But its grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity was short-lived as tech com­pa­nies like Ama­zon de­plat­formed Par­ler for the role it played.

Par­ler CEO John Matze called the se­ries of ac­tions “a co­or­di­nated at­tack by the tech gi­ants to kill com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place.”

Matze has sig­naled there is lit­tle chance of get­ting Par­ler back on­line any­time soon af­ter “ev­ery ven­dor, from text mes­sage ser­vices to email providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” he told Fox News’ “Sun­day Morn­ing Fu­tures.”

In a Mon­day in­ter­view with Fox Busi­ness, he said the com­pany “may even have to go as far as buy­ing and build­ing our own data cen­ters and buy­ing up our own servers.”

Par­ler filed a law­suit in fed­eral court Mon­day ar­gu­ing that Ama­zon vi­o­lated an­titrust laws to harm Par­ler and help Twit­ter. It also al­leged Ama­zon breached its con­tract by not giv­ing 30 days of no­tice be­fore ter­mi­nat­ing Par­ler’s ac­count.

In a state­ment sent to USA TO­DAY Tues­day, Ama­zon said there is no merit to the claims and that the com­pany told Par­ler about its con­cerns over a num­ber of weeks but saw “a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in this type of danger­ous con­tent, not a de­crease, which led to our sus­pen­sion of their ser­vices Sun­day evening.”

“AWS pro­vides tech­nol­ogy and ser­vices to cus­tomers across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, and we re­spect Par­ler’s right to de­ter­mine for it­self what con­tent it will al­low,” the state­ment said. “How­ever, it is clear that there is sig­nif­i­cant con­tent on Par­ler that en­cour­ages and in­cites vi­o­lence against others, and that Par­ler is un­able or un­will­ing to promptly iden­tify and re­move this con­tent, which is a vi­o­la­tion of our terms of ser­vice.”

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