Media critics explain why Trump's unlaunched 'Truth Social' network already has lots of competition

Media critics explain why Trump's unlaunched 'Truth Social' network already has lots of competition
Trump media image by J Stone,Wikipedia

Donald Trump's nascent social media network, Truth Social, is reportedly courting influencers for a launch in the next couple months, according to Axios.

The anticipated entrance of Truth Social into a crowded field of conservative media platforms fighting for the same finite audience is sure to trigger a brawl for users. Twitter-esque rivals such as Gettr, run by former Trump aide Jason Miller; Gab.com, which bills itself as the ultimate free speech platform; and Parler, which surged in November 2020 the weekend after major outlets called the election for Joe Biden, have already started hedging their bets.

Gettr, which claims some 4 million users, courted Trump with a multimillion-dollar offer to be its marquee user. Although Trump turned down the offer in favor of his own yet-to-be launched network, Gettr has reserved his handle in hopes he might change his mind. Parler, whose user base was recently surpassed by Gettr, also reportedly made Trump an offer.

The CEO of Gab.com, Andrew Torba, has chosen to go the opposite direction, blasting both Trump and Trump-aligned Gettr as sellouts to the bigger movement of Trumpism. Torba has skewered Trump for promoting vaccines—which he called "the death jab"—as "so cringe," and he has shared clips of conspiracy monger Alex Jones promising to "declare war" on Trump for his vaccine support.

Torba appears to be preemptively trying to cleave his 3 million users away from Trump before the launch of Truth Social. Torba, for instance, recently posted his full response to an inquiry from The Washington Post for an article about right-wing sites.

"President Trump has turned into a vaccine salesman which is a total and complete disconnect with the overwhelming vast majority of his voting base," Torba wrote. "His non-stop vaccine shilling has turned many of his supporters off completely."

Torba continued, "People aren’t and never were coming to Gab for an online Trump rally. People are coming to Gab for the Truth and to speak freely."

Civiqs polling has recorded a softening of support for Trump that backs up Torba's argument to some extent.

But the big problem for all these right-wing and conservative inclusive platforms, including Facebook clone Rumble and the chat service Telegram, is they are all fighting for an audience share that is relatively small and stagnant. For example, a platform like Twitter totally eclipses its right-wing counterparts, claiming more than 200 million active users globally and nearly 40 million in the U.S. alone.

As The Washington Post recently noted, many right-wing influencers who joined the conservative sites following Jan. 6 and Trump's deplatforming on mainstream media experienced a flashpoint of growth. "But those audiences have barely grown in the year since. In some cases, they even declined," writes the Post.

Right-wing sites are now suffering the same phenomenon of infighting and backbiting that has plagued Trump's right-wing provocateurs, such as Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell.

They are all competing for space and influence among a diminishing audience that shows no signs of growth. So while Trump's base is still passionate and Trumpism remains extremely dangerous, they have not proven to be scalable and largely mainstream-able.

That limiting conundrum could rebound to the benefit of American democracy if right-wing outlets and moneygrabbers turn their followers against each other, splintering both Trump’s base and its malign influence.

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