What does a former U.S. president do when he’s been kicked off of mainstream social media platforms? Start his own, apparently.
The news that former president Donald Trump was building his own social media business was revealed on Sunday by his advisor Jason Miller, who told Fox News that his boss would return in two to three months with “his own platform.”
But word of the major move landed with a thud in the most pro-Trump corners of the internet, and the announcement was met with silence, if not outright derision.
In typical Trump style, the expectations of the new business are nothing if not ambitions. Miller declared that the platform is anticipated to attract “tens of millions” of new users.
“This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media," Miller added. “It's going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what President Trump does, but it will be his own platform."
Trump has been silent on social media since Twitter and Facebook kicked him out for the part he played in inciting the Capitol riots. Twitter has banned him permanently, while Facebook has asked its independent oversight board to make a decision about whether to allow Trump back on the platform. Their verdict is expected next month.
Since then, Trump has rebuffed repeated efforts by right-wing fringe platforms like Gab and Parler to get him to join. It seems he has set his sights on his own platform, with numerous companies reportedly seeking to build it for him.
“This new platform is going to be big,” Miller said. “Everyone wants him and he's going to bring millions and millions— tens of millions— to this platform.”
But Trump’s expectations may have to be tempered somewhat if the reaction among his most ardent online supporters is anything to go by.
In fact, the most surprising thing about the response among hardcore Trump fans so far is the lack of reaction.
On rabidly pro-Trump platforms like GreatAweakenings.win and Patriots.win (formerly known as TheDonald.win) the news barely registered, and users preferred to talk about COVID-19 hoaxes and Trump’s statement about the border.
On “The Donald” group in Gab, another pro-Trump platform, there was almost no mention of Trump’s new platform.Gab founder Andrew Torba, however, did have his own response to the news, with a five word statement: “Best wishes and good luck.”
On Telegram, the Students for Trump group, which has 115,000 members, were split about news of a new Trump social media platform. While many welcomed it, others seemed nonplussed, with one person commenting: “Couldn’t give a rat’s ass.”
Among QAnon followers on Telegram, who believe Trump is waging a secret war against a group of Satanic pedophiles, some commenters questioned why he was launching his own social media platform at a time when he should be focused on more important things.
“I thought he was coming back to be president,” one member of a prominent QAnon group said, referring to the baseless conspiracy theory that Trump will reclaim the presidency from President Joe Biden.
The reaction to Trump’s new social media platform has been similar to the low-key response MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s announcement earlier this month that he would be launching his own social media platform called VOCL.
But it’s not just Trump’s fans who don’t seem too excited about the new social media platform. Extremism experts are questioning the wisdom of launching a new platform in an already-saturated market, and the staying power of a new right-wing echo chamber when so many already exist.
“The idea of [a] Trump social media platform sounds as viable as Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump Casino Atlantic City. How long can one discuss ‘Her emails’ or ‘Voter Fraud’?” tweeted Clint Watts, a national security analyst at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.
Running a social network is not only difficult, but also expensive, and most rely almost entirely on advertising to make money. Many pointed out that it may be difficult to get enough advertisers to spend money on a site filled with militant Trump supporters, especially when so many are pulling their advertising money from pro-Trump shows like Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
But some pointed out that rather than trying to challenge Twitter or Facebook, Trump’s social network may simply be a new play to squeeze money — and data — from Trump’s core groups of supporters.
“There are models out there. Think Twitch, Patreon, OnlyFans. A Trump social media network will surely be designed to get cash out of its users' pockets, not advertisers,” Arieh Kovler, a political consultant, tweeted.