Michael Gove and 13 Conservative MPs – including ministers and cabinet ministers – reportedly joined a social media platform favoured by the far right before it was forced offline last week.
Nine Tory backbenchers joined Parler in an apparent show of support for free speech following Donald Trump’s clashes with Twitter over remarks he made following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota last year.
Parler, which hosted ring-wing commentators like Katie Hopkins and David Vance, was shut down last week for hosting threats of violence and racist slurs.
Amazon Web Services removed the app from its servers saying violent posts and racist threats connected to the recent attack on the US Capitol had violated its terms.
Analysts from the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) said the platform had become an arena where the mainstream ideas of Tory MPs co-existed with those of extremists.
Milo Comerford, senior policy manager at ISD, said: “By positioning themselves as a safe haven for free speech and an alternative to the alleged ‘liberal bias’ of social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, platforms like Parler attracted a motley crew of ultra-libertarians, violent extremists and conspiracy theorists, as well as more mainstream ‘free speech fundamentalists’.”
Among those to join the platform were foreign office minister James Cleverly, Brexiteer MPs Steve Baker and Ben Bradley, and former UKIP turned Tory MP Mark Jenkinson, who last year alleged – without evidence – that food parcels were being traded for drugs in his local constituency in Cumbria.
Health minister Nadine Dorries also joined the site on June 21. Dorries had weeks earlier been reprimanded by Downing Street for sharing a video from a far-right Twitter account that falsely claimed Keir Starmer blocked the prosecution of grooming gang members when he was the director of the Crown Prosecution Service.
The most prolific Tory MP on the site was Bradley, who sent 52 “parleys” and had more than 12,000 followers. Gove sent at least 26 parleys and had more than 5,000 followers.
There is no evidence any Conservative MP posted anything untoward or what might be considered extremist or far-right.
Some of the accounts had been hardly used and some of those activated in June 2020 appear to have been set up only to support the free speech protest.