Bill Gates Dismisses Parler App, Says It's 'Great' for People Who Want Holocaust Denial

Bill Gates criticised the "free speech" social media platform Parler this week by saying it will be a "great" place for Holocaust deniers.

The billionaire Microsoft co-founder said Tuesday that content uploaded to the up-and-coming platform includes "crazy stuff" and suggested that it would attract social media users who are too extreme for mainstream sites like Facebook or Twitter.

"If you want Holocaust denial, hey, Parler is going to be great for you," Gates said while speaking at the virtual The New York Times DealBook Summit, CNBC reported.

Increasingly popular with right wing politicians, commentators and personalities, Parler is an Twitter-like app that claims not to censor the views of its users.

The app topped the iOS and Android download charts inside the U.S. this month after it was promoted by a wave of high-profile figures, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, anchor Maria Bartiromo, Senator Ted Cruz and radio host Mark Levin.

A lax attitude to moderation means Parler attracted users who were banned or restricted on mainstream social networking services for violating policy. Researchers have noted the platform hosts right-wing extremists and believers in conspiracy theories.

"QAnon adherents, anti-government extremists and white supremacists openly promote their ideologies on the site, while Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry are also easy to find," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has said.

A search on Parler beings up a post claiming to show proof that the Holocaust was a "fraud." Another post reads: "The #Holocaust was the first #FakeNews."

According to CNBC, Gates said he believed that social media platforms need to face stronger regulation in the U.S. to help manage the spread of false information.

He said: "Facebook [is the] primary way people access news and they get drawn in to more and more extreme stories, including some of these anti-vaccines or conspiracy things. That person hasn't started out saying, 'I want crazy stuff,' they get drawn down and see things that are... titillating and that is where it is almost a human weakness."

Founded in 2018 and led by CEO John Matze, Parler is financially backed by the hedge fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, a family that heavily donates to conservative causes, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

Robert Mercer was a top investor in Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy that closed in 2018 after being embroiled in a Facebook data-harvesting scandal. Conservative radio host and commentator Dan Bongino was also named as a Parler investor.

Matze reacted to Gates' comment on his personal Parler page on Wednesday. He wrote: "Bill Gates calling Parler people crazy? I guess, judge us based off those who criticizes us." A Parler representative has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

On October 12, Facebook's content policy executive Monika Bickert said any content that "denies or distorts the Holocaust" would be officially against the rules.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that any users who search for the term Holocaust would be sent to "authoritative sources to get accurate information."

He wrote on his Facebook: "I've struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust. My own thinking has evolved as I've seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech.

"Drawing the... lines between what is and isn't acceptable speech isn't straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance."

Twitter confirmed to Bloomberg on October 14 that its moderators would also remove posts that deny the Holocaust for being in violation of its hateful conduct policy.

"Hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service. We also have a robust... policy in place and take action against content that glorifies or praises historical acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust," a spokesperson said.

On his Parler account, CEO Matze indicated that his stance on free speech is unlikely to change, reiterating a belief that the website should not silence users' opinions.

"It's not yet against the law to think for yourself. People with differences in opinions should have discussions not censorship," he wrote on the platform today.

"Our leaders who push for authoritarian measures to control speech online are fighting for an evil cause. Handing our version of 'truth' to a handful of ideological fact checkers creates increased centralization of power... fact checkers of history called Tesla a hack, said Einstein was a fraud and they believed in witches. Fact checking is wrong."

This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia on July 2. Bill Gates said on Tuesday that Parler hosts some "crazy" content. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty