With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Archivists Are Mining Parler Metadata to Pinpoint Crimes at the Capitol

Using a massive 56.7-terabyte archive of the far-right social media site Parler that was captured on Sunday, open-source analysts, hobby archivists, and computer scientists are working together to catalog videos and photos that were taken at the attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

Over the last few days, Parler was de-platformed by Amazon Web Services, the Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store, which has taken it offline (at least temporarily). But before it disappeared, a small group of archivists made a copy of the overwhelming majority of posts on the site.

While all the data scraped from Parler was publicly available, archiving it allows analysts to extract the EXIF metadata from photos and videos uploaded to the social media site en masse and to examine specific ones that were taken at the insurrection on Capitol Hill. This data includes specific GPS coordinates as well as the date and time the photos were taken. These are now being analyzed in IRC chat channels by a handful of people, some of whom believe crimes can be catalogued and given to the FBI.

"I hope that it can be used to hold people accountable and to prevent more death," donk_enby, the hacker who led the archiving project, told Motherboard on Monday

One technologist took the scraped Parler data, took every file that had GPS coordinates included within it, formatted that information into JSON, and plotted those onto a map. The technologist then shared screenshots of their map with Motherboard, showing Parler posts originating from various countries, and then the United States, and finally in or around the Capitol itself. In other words, they were able to show that Parler users were posting material from the Capitol on the day of the rioting, and can now go back into the rest of the Parler data to retrieve specific material from that time.

They also shared the newly formatted geolocation data with Motherboard. Motherboard granted the technologist anonymity to speak more candidly about a potentially sensitive topic.

Read entire article at Vice