Home Politics Parler hack yields GPS knowledge that tracks customers at US Capitol riots

Parler hack yields GPS knowledge that tracks customers at US Capitol riots


GPS tracking data obtained through a hack of the suspended Parler shows that many users of the social media app stormed into the US Capitol Building, reports say.  

Many of the thousands of supporters of President Trump who stormed the Capitol in last week’s riots have since have been identified and found to hold extreme, far-right political views often expressed on the app seen as a Twitter alternative.

Using the data, technology news website Gizmodo mapped almost 70,000 geo-located Parler video posts, finding hundreds published on January 6 from near or even inside the Capitol.

Parler went offline in the early hours of Monday, January 11, after Amazon suspended the platform off its web hosting service, effectively shutting it down until it can find a new hosting partner. 

Hailed by Donald Trump supporters as a conservative-friendly alternative to Twitter – which permanently suspended the president on Friday – the site is seen as a magnet for the far right and was accused by Apple, Google and Amazon of continuing to allow messages inciting violence after Wednesday’s riot.  

Before it was removed, a hacker archived all of Parler’s deleted posts, saying they provide ‘very incriminating’ evidence in the wake of the attack at the US Capitol.

GPS tracking data obtained through a hack of the suspended Parler app shows that many users of the social media app stormed into the US Capitol Building. Pictured: Dots in and around the US Capitol building representing Parlor video posts during the Capitol riots last week. This map was created by coding artist Kyle McDonald

Pictured: When MacDonald's data map is superimposed over the Capitol, it shows many of the posts were made from inside the building

Pictured: When MacDonald’s data map is superimposed over the Capitol, it shows many of the posts were made from inside the building 

GPS tracking data obtained through a hack of the suspended Parler shows that many users of the social media app stormed into the US Capitol Building, reports say. Pictured: Supporters of US President Donald J. Trump fill the Capitol's rotunda on January 6

GPS tracking data obtained through a hack of the suspended Parler shows that many users of the social media app stormed into the US Capitol Building, reports say. Pictured: Supporters of US President Donald J. Trump fill the Capitol’s rotunda on January 6

MAGA rioters stormed the Capitol where lawmakers were scheduled to confirm Biden's presidential victory. GPS coordinates show that posts made by Parler users on January 6 came from inside and around the Capitol

MAGA rioters stormed the Capitol where lawmakers were scheduled to confirm Biden’s presidential victory. GPS coordinates show that posts made by Parler users on January 6 came from inside and around the Capitol

The GPS metadata legally obtained by the hacker, who asked Gizmodo to use her Twitter handle @donk_enby, shows that some Parler users reached as far as both chambers of Congress as well as the offices of key politicians.

Pictures from inside the building showed large crowds of MAGA supporters roaming the halls of the Capitol, inside the Senate and House chambers, and inside offices.

Twitter user @donk_enby says she has obtained files from the site complete with GPS metadata to show exactly where they were taken

Twitter user @donk_enby says she has obtained files from the site complete with GPS metadata to show exactly where they were taken

The precise location of Parler users inside the building itself can be hard to pinpoint, Gizmodo reported (such as which floor a person is on), and the data only includes users who posted videos taken on January 6. 

The coordinates are also only accurate up to a distance of approximately 12 yards.

The website reports that one red dot at the centre of the Capitol’s rotunda has been traced to a video that shows rioters in red MAGA hats shouting obscenities about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose office was raided on the day.

Other dots nearby indicate videos were taken in nearby offices, stairwells and hallways leading toward the House and Senate chambers, Gizmodo said.

Other coordinates taken from the app show users were near the north side of the building near the Senate chamber and other leader’s offices.

Another map of a wider area, including the National Mall and the White House, showed more dots representing Parler posts made by people within the flood of protesters that made their way from the the White House to the Capitol.

Outside the White House, President Trump had held a ‘Save America’ rally in the hours before the riots, where he urged them to march down to Congress as lawmakers worked to certify the Electoral College votes and Joe Biden’s election win.

Pictured: A map showing posts on Parler on January 6 as the Capitol riots were taking place. On the left, dots are shown outside the White House. Posts were also made on the National Mall (the road running diagonally down the centre of the map) and around the Capitol (right)

Pictured: A map showing posts on Parler on January 6 as the Capitol riots were taking place. On the left, dots are shown outside the White House. Posts were also made on the National Mall (the road running diagonally down the centre of the map) and around the Capitol (right)

Pictured: Supporters of President Donald Trump participate in a rally in Washington hours before the Capitol building was stormed at the other end of the National Mall. GPS coordinates of Parler posts show a number of users were in the crowd outside the White House

Pictured: Supporters of President Donald Trump participate in a rally in Washington hours before the Capitol building was stormed at the other end of the National Mall. GPS coordinates of Parler posts show a number of users were in the crowd outside the White House

Supporters of US President Donald J. Trump arrive on the National Mall ahead of the 'Stop the Steal' rally Washington DC, USA, 06 January 2021

Supporters of US President Donald J. Trump arrive on the National Mall ahead of the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally Washington DC, USA, 06 January 2021

A supporter of US President Donald Trump holds a Confederate flag outside the Senate Chamber during the raid of the Capitol on January 6. GPS data from Parler shows posts were made from outside the chamber during the riots

A supporter of US President Donald Trump holds a Confederate flag outside the Senate Chamber during the raid of the Capitol on January 6. GPS data from Parler shows posts were made from outside the chamber during the riots

‘After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women,’ the president said during the event.

‘We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.’ 

The map shows that people were posting to Parler outside the White House, down the National Mall, and in and around the Capitol building as the events unfolded. 

Pictured: A user on Parler posts a photo from inside the Capitol building, with the caption 'The Deep State cannot stop us. They learned that today when we stormed the Capitol and took it. The word is we're all coming back armed for war.'

Pictured: A user on Parler posts a photo from inside the Capitol building, with the caption ‘The Deep State cannot stop us. They learned that today when we stormed the Capitol and took it. The word is we’re all coming back armed for war.’

Pictured: Another user on Parlor posts in support of the Capitol riots

Pictured: Another user on Parlor posts in support of the Capitol riots

Parlor is seen as a magnet for the far right and was accused by Apple, Google and Amazon of continuing to allow messages inciting violence after Wednesday's riot

Parlor is seen as a magnet for the far right and was accused by Apple, Google and Amazon of continuing to allow messages inciting violence after Wednesday’s riot

The hacker told Gizmodo how she started with the aim of archiving every post since the Capitol riot on January 6. But when it emerged the site would be scrubbed she worked to pull 99 per cent of the content on the site. 

Some of the clips ‘may include things’ from deleted and private posts, @donk_enby said. The data is also said to contain information about the site admins. 

@donk_enby said: ‘I want this to be a big middle finger to those who say hacking shouldn’t be political.’ 

‘I am now crawling URLs of all videos uploaded to Parler. Sequentially from latest to oldest. These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,’ she wrote Sunday.  

She later added on Twitter Monday: ‘only things that were available publicly via the web were archived. i don’t have you e-mail address, phone or credit card number. unless you posted it yourself on parler.’ 

Speaking to Vice, she clarified further, saying: ‘Everything we grabbed was publicly available on the web, we just made a permanent public snapshot of it.’

Gizmodo says it took GPS coordinates from 618 Parler videos, adding that the data has already been sought after by the FBI as part of a sweeping national investigation into the suspects involved in the riots. 

Pictured: A view from inside the Capitol as police hold back supporters of US President Donald Trump as they gather outside the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6, 2021

Pictured: A view from inside the Capitol as police hold back supporters of US President Donald Trump as they gather outside the US Capitol’s Rotunda on January 6, 2021

Supporters of US President Donald Trump walk around in the Rotunda after breaching the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021

Supporters of US President Donald Trump walk around in the Rotunda after breaching the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021

At least 20 people are already in custody, and one female Trump supporter, US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by Capitol Police as she tried to climb through a window. 

Three other Trump supporters died after ‘medical emergencies’ related to the breach and Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died Thursday from injuries sustained in the attack after the thug allegedly hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher. 

Two pipe bombs were also found near the Capitol, with one being placed at both the Republican and Democratic national committee offices in DC.

The mob included white nationalists, neo-Nazis and QAnon conspiracy theorists, coming from states as far-flung as Arizona and Oregon, while photographs from the riot have shown people wearing clothes with a range of antisemitic messages.

Parler on Monday announced it will sue Amazon for antitrust violations after the site was scrubbed from the web overnight. 

Hailed by Donald Trump supporters as a conservative-friendly alternative to Twitter, Parler is seen as a magnet for the far right and was accused by Apple, Google and Amazon of continuing to allow messages inciting violence after Wednesday's attack at the Capitol

Hailed by Donald Trump supporters as a conservative-friendly alternative to Twitter, Parler is seen as a magnet for the far right and was accused by Apple, Google and Amazon of continuing to allow messages inciting violence after Wednesday’s attack at the Capitol 

CEO John Matze said Monday morning he was doing more than Facebook and Twitter to try and remove violent content from his app. In a statement the self declared libertarian said: ‘Evaluated objectively, our system worked as well or better than the methods used by our competitors, while adhering to our principles.’

The site then announced it will sue Amazon and ask a federal judge to order the tech giant to reinstate the platform, The Hill first reported. 

The 18-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle against Amazon Web Services (AWS). It claims: ‘AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.’ 

Parler CEO John Matze warned in his final post before the 3am deadline that 'we will likely be down longer than expected' as tech firms distance themselves from the site.

Parler CEO John Matze warned in his final post before the 3am deadline that ‘we will likely be down longer than expected’ as tech firms distance themselves from the site.

It notes: ‘Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was “Hang Mike Pence.” But AWS has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account.’

Parler are thought to have targeted AWS, rather than Apple and Google, as ‘both the apps and the website are written to work with AWS’s technology’. ‘Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online’, the suit adds.

Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple severely limits Parler’s reach to millions of smartphones. Losing Amazon Web Services means Parler needs to find another web host to be accessed on a browser. 

Matze argued ‘up until Friday afternoon it seemed Apple, Amazon and Google agreed’ the app had been effective in their efforts to remove ‘objectionable content’, adding: ‘You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.’ 

Matze had initially said that Parler might be unavailable for ‘up to a week as we rebuild from scratch’, but now says it might be offline for longer. Google and Apple both booted Trump friendly Gab from their app stores in 2017 and it was left internet-homeless for a time. It now hosts through its own servers.

Critics have continued to slammed the big tech giants for purging free speech in the wake of Donald Trump’s Twitter ban.

Fox New host Jeanine Pirro later argued Parler’s deplatforming ‘is akin to a Kristallnacht’. In 1938, Nazis in Germany and Austria vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses during an attack that became known as Kristallnacht.  

What are Parler’s options now?

Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple — whose operating systems power hundreds of millions of smartphones — severely limits Parler’s reach, though it had continued to be accessible via web browser. 

The decision by Amazon Web Services to remove Parler means it now needs to scramble to find another web host in addition to ‘rebuilding the site from scratch’.

Google and Apple both booted Gab from their app stores in 2017 and it was left internet-homeless for a time the following year due to anti-Semitic posts attributed to the man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Microsoft also terminated a web-hosting contract. 

It now hosts through its own servers, so that is an option. 

Or it can find another server willing to host the site. Max Aliapoulios, a computer science Ph. D candidate told Business Insider: ‘It is realistic to expect that Parler will find another provider to host their services like AWS. 

‘That being said, now the precedent is set and Parler will likely always have an uphill battle with finding a home to host them on the internet.’ 

She said: ‘They gave us a taste of this pre-election when they suppressed the Hunter Biden story. And now that they’ve won, what we’re seeing is a kind of censorship that is akin to a Kristallnacht, where they decide what we can communicate about.’ 

Pirro later clarified her comments in a tweet: ‘Although book burning started earlier, Kristallnacht included the destruction of Jewish stores, homes & synagogues containing rare Jewish books & Torahs. My reference was in context of books. The Holocaust was the greatest hate crime the world ever tolerated. I abhor all violence.’

Journalist Glenn Greenwald on Sunday accused the tech giants of ‘feigning offense to destroy’ to Parler. He claimed ‘far more violence’ has been planned on Facebook.

He tweeted Monday to pan liberals as ‘overwhelmingly supportive’ of big tech using ‘brute force 3 times in 3 months to manipulate US politics’

Greenwald wrote: ‘Tech monopolies — FB, Google, Apple, Amazon — have more concentrated wealth & power than any in history. They have used brute force 3 times in 3 months to manipulate US politics: censoring NY Post, banning Trump, destroying Parler. And liberals are overwhelmingly supportive.

‘That these Silicon Valley monopolies are grave menaces to political freedom & economic well-being is *not* a right-wing view.

‘Authoritarians never believe they’re authoritarians, no matter how much censorship, surveillance, jingoism, & imprisonment they demand. They tell themselves their enemies are so uniquely evil and dangerous – terrorists – that anything done in the name of fighting them is noble.’  



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