Kanye West to Buy Parler, a Libertarian Social-Media Platform, Company Says
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Kanye West to Buy Parler, a Libertarian Social-Media Platform, Company Says

Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies, says it agreed to a deal in principle with the entertainer for undisclosed terms

By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN
Tue, Oct 18, 2022 9:06amGrey Clock 4 min

Parler says Kanye West has agreed to buy the libertarian-leaning social network popular with conservatives, the rapper’s latest foray into the debate around free speech.

Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies Inc., said Monday it had entered into an agreement in principle with Mr. West, who now legally goes by Ye, to buy the platform.

Financial terms of the deal, which is expected to be completed later this year, weren’t disclosed.

“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Mr. West said in the press release disclosed by Parlement Technologies.

Mr. West didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment beyond the press release.

The Parler deal is the latest in a series of moves by right-leaning individuals toward the building of an alternative social media universe for free-speech proponents. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person, has been in a prolonged back-and-forth to potentially buy Twitter Inc., in part so he could loosen its moderation controls. In June he told the company’s employees that people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things on the platform as long as it’s within the law.

Former President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot, launched his own social network called Truth Social in February. And in May, video platform Rumble said it was expecting an investment from a group of prominent conservative venture capitalists including Peter Thiel and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance.

Launched in 2018, Parler has attracted millions of users by pitching itself as “free speech Twitter alternative.” Several of its users had been banned by other large social networks, including Alex Jones, the far-right talk-show host and conspiracy theorist, and supporters of the Proud Boys.

George Farmer, chief executive at Parlement Technologies, said the deal will “change the way the world thinks about free speech.”

The deal comes as Mr. West has been enmeshed in controversy over his public messaging and social media.

In an interview, Mr. Farmer said discussions with Mr. West about a Parler deal began casually when his wife Candace Owens, an American conservative author and commentator, attended Mr. West’s fashion show in Paris.

Both Mr. West and Ms. Owens wore “White Lives Matter” shirts at the event.

The phrase, an inversion of “Black Lives Matter”—the movement that, among other things, aims to restrict police use of force and transfer police funding to other services—is often used by white supremacist groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Ms. Owens had a conversation with Mr. West about the social-media landscape and the notion of Mr. West buying Parler evolved from there, Mr. Farmer said.

Mr. West has also been critical of major Silicon Valley social-media companies. Earlier this month, Twitter Inc. locked his account after the musician and designer posted an anti-Semitic tweet.

Mr. West’s Instagram account has also been locked over a post that violated company policy, according to a spokesperson for Instagram parent Meta Platforms Inc. Both Twitter and Instagram have policies that prohibit the posting of offensive language, among other restrictions.

Buying Parler was “a very attractive solution to his issues of being censored,” Mr. Farmer said.

Mr. West’s corporate sponsorships also have recently been scrutinised. Adidas AG said it decided to place its partnership with Mr. West under review, putting in doubt an arrangement that has produced the popular Yeezy collection of sneakers.

Last month, Gap Inc. said it was winding down its partnership with Mr. West, saying he and the company were “not aligned” in how they work together, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

For Parler, the platform faced backlash in 2021 for serving as a hub for people alleged to have organised the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and participated in it.

Afterward, Apple Inc. and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. removed Parler from their mobile-app stores, and Amazon.com Inc. stopped providing Parler with web-hosting services, forcing it offline for weeks. The major tech companies said Parler had broken their rules by failing to have an adequate content-moderation system in place.

Parler sued Amazon in Seattle federal court, alleging that Amazon Web Services kicked the company off its cloud servers for political and anticompetitive reasons. The company said Parler was suspended for not removing violent content that violated AWS’s terms of service. The case is ongoing.

Parler resumed operations online by signing up with a different cloud provider. It was reinstated on the App Store in May 2021 after agreeing to add technology to detect violent content or incitements to violence. It returned to Google Play last month after agreeing to modify some of its content-moderation policies and enforcement.

As of Oct. 16, Parler has been downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores 8.5 million times globally since its launch, with 6.2 million downloads in the U.S., according to analytics firm data.ai.

In the first half of the year, Parler averaged about 983,000 monthly active users globally, down from 6 million in the first half of 2021, the firm’s data show.

A study earlier this month found that fewer than one-in-10 Americans read alternative social-media sites for news, according to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan D.C.-based think tank. The study included a survey of U.S. adults along with an audit of BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Parler, Rumble, Telegram and Truth Social.

About 6% of Americans get news from at least one of the seven sites mentioned, and no single site is used for news by more than 2% of U.S. adults, the study said. Parler is the best known of the seven sites named in the survey, with 38% of U.S. adults saying they were familiar with it.

While many users cite free speech when turning to sites like Parler, Dr. Shannon McGregor, an assistant professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who studies social media, said Mr. West and other public figures might have different motivations for purchasing these platforms.

“I think all three of these cases—Elon and Twitter, Trump with Truth Social and Kanye with Parler—are fundamentally about driving media attention to themselves and having a vehicle to do so,” she said.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Parlement will continue to provide Parler with web-hosting and other services. The company recently completed a fundraising round for $16 million, bringing the total amount raised to $56 million. Parlement also recently acquired Dynascale Inc., a provider of cloud services with around 50,000 square feet of data centre space in the U.S.

Mr. Farmer said the deal “further advances the goal of Parlement becoming the plumbing of the internet.”

Ginger Adams Otis contributed to this article.



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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