Where does Donald Trump go after being banned from Twitter and several other social networks? The question has been circulating for a few days, and still remains without an official answer. There are several possible candidates, such as Parler, Gab, MeWe and Rumble; the US president is also considering creating his own platform. But can they last?
“We are negotiating with several other sites and we will have a big announcement soon, while we are also looking into the possibilities of building our own platform in the near future,” said a statement attributed to Trump on Friday (8).
The president has 33 million followers on Facebook and 24.6 million on Instagram; both networks suspended the president’s profile until at least Joe Biden took office. In turn, Trump’s Twitter account had 88.8 million followers before it was permanently suspended, in addition to a huge engagement.
“In the past 30 days, Trump tweeted 18.5 times a day and got a total of 17.2 million retweets and 79.9 million likes,” explains Lena Young, communications director at Klear, to the Los Angeles Times. “If he wanted to generate the same results through paid media, he would need to spend approximately $ 2 million a month.”
Will alternative social networks last?
One of the challenges for alternative social networks is to attract enough users, and several of them are looking to Trump to establish themselves. However, it is not yet clear whether this will add significant financial value to them, enough to keep them running over the next few years.
It turns out that these social networks want to differentiate themselves by “freedom of expression” and, in this way, end up attracting (and allowing) all types of content involving racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy, in addition to conspiracy theories like QAnon.
Voat, which was born in 2014 as an alternative to Reddit, had to shut down in December 2020: it received donations through cryptocurrencies because companies like PayPal refused to process payments; and was unable to attract advertisers due to the offending content. It has survived so long thanks to the support of anonymous investors.
Parler is a similar case: it was co-founded by Rebekah Mercer, heir to billionaire Robert Mercer (who was a major investor in Cambridge Analytica). This network seemed to be the main candidate to receive Trump’s supporters, until its apps were removed by Google and Apple; while Amazon ended access to the AWS cloud.
MeWe Network, Rumble and DLive are more or less analogous versions of Facebook, YouTube and Twitch, respectively, but with the promise of less content moderation (or “censorship”). There is also TheDonald.win, a forum where former members of Reddit’s r / The_Donald community gather, banned in June last year for promoting hate speech.
Trump’s migration to any of these alternatives should have some important consequences. Ethan Zuckerman, professor of civic media at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, tells the Associated Press that this can fragment social networks according to the users ’ideology, with smaller audiences that disagree less with each other.
For David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, networks like Parler and MeWe could become targets for regulation and lawsuits as they grow.
Parler claims to have more than 12 million users. Gab has more than 1 million accounts; its founder, Andrew Torba, claims that the network has been receiving “record traffic” since Trump’s ban. MeWe, in turn, would have gained 1 million users in the week after the US presidential election.