If you ever posted content on the right-wing social media platform, Parler, odds are that it’s now been saved, archived, and made public to the internet forever.
That includes posts you previously deleted on Parler.
Over the past few days, archivists have been pulling content from Parler in order to store them for legal and historical purposes.
Archivists began to save the data because they were concerned that users would remove their posts, deleting possible evidence of a crime at the Capitol. However, once companies like Amazon announced they were ending their business relationships with Parler, it became a race to archive the content before the platform went offline.
Parler played an integral role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters, which resulted in five deaths and at least 25 domestic terrorism cases. Pro-Trump personalities used the platform to promote the event and many Trump supporters who attended posted updates, including photo and video evidence from the Capitol, on the platform.
The campaign to back up Parler was by Twitter user @donk_enby. The archivist described the material she was saving as “very incriminating,” according to Gizmodo. She claims she was even able to access content Parler users had “deleted” from the platform themselves because Parler didn’t actually remove the content. Mashable reached out to @donk_enby for further comment, but we haven’t heard back. When she spoke to Gizmodo, she asked to be referred only by her Twitter handle.
As @donk_enby went to work pulling the data, eventually grabbing what she says accounts for of Parler’s content, misinformation spread about the archiving campaign. On Twitter and Reddit, people were incorrectly describing how the data being archived was retrieved.
Parler wasn’t broken into and private information was not accessed. Phone numbers and credit cards were not obtained in the breach. Only content that Parler made publicly available was accessed, @donk_enby said on Twitter.
@donk_enby’s archiving campaign was carried out utilizing public APIs, with a huge assist from Parler’s poorly coded platform. An API is basically a system that allows an application to communicate with other apps. Social media APIs often provide third-parties with easy ways to access its real-time feeds for analysis or research, for example.
The content was then scraped, a practice that is against some platforms’ terms of services, but is not illegal.
How was it so easy to grab all of the images uploaded to Parler? Because the platform the content to sequentially numbered URLs. What does that mean? Look at a YouTube video URL for example. Every video is located on a URL that begins with “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=” followed by a string of random characters. Parler, however, saved every image sequentially (i.e. 1, 2, 3, and so on), making it easy to set up a script that just ran through all the URLs and pulled all the images from the site.
Another false claim purported that the hack allowed any user to create a high-level “administrator” account on Parler because a security authentication company also cut ties with Parler. While the latter part is true – for a time any users could set up a Parler account without having to authenticate via an SMS text code – this didn’t allow users to have an “administrator” account.
All @donk_enby did to access backend information was decompile the mobile app, which provided a look at features already coded into the app but hidden from public view. Developers sometimes do this to upcoming features in mobile apps.
Early Monday morning, Amazon officially with Parler and suspended its web hosting services with the platform, resulting in the entire social networking being taken down. This move came after Apple and Google the company’s mobile app from its app stores.