Appearing on Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe’s podcast, Donald Trump teased the idea of launching his own social network. His advisor Stephen Miller said Trump would be returning to social media in two or three months.
Could it work? And what would Trump’s social network be like?
Could a Trump social network work?
In theory, it’s not that hard to launch a new social network. There are thousands of vendors with tools to make it work, from server farms to security to software.
While many of those vendors would likely refuse to work with Trump, many others would enthusiastically participate. Unlike Parler, the Trump social network is not going to suddenly go offline when his partners wake up to who he is. They’ll know exactly what they are getting.
Given the string of failures to his name, Trump certainly raises doubts about his ability to successfully manage anything other than a golf course, hotel, or office building. Even so, I don’t think failure is a foregone conclusion. Among Trump’s allies are the venture investor Peter Thiel and his former social media consigliere and deputy chief of staff, Dan Scavino. Both have a sophisticated understanding of social media.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Trump’s social network — call it MegaMAGA, launches and actually functions. What would it be like?
Trump’s social network would devolve into a MAGA hatescape
To understand how the Trump social network would emerge, look at two closely connected questions: who would it attract, and what rules would it follow?
Clearly, the Trump social network would feature Trump’s account at the top. I’d also expect him to reach out to allies who would have a significant presence and visibility: Dan Bongino, Dinesh D’Souza, Sean Hannity, Mike Lindell, and political figures like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The presence of these figures would attract a Trump loyalist following of users in the MAGA orbit, the kind of people who go to Trump rallies.
To attract and keep such figures, I’d expect a strange and potentially contradictory set of terms and conditions.
Certainly, there will be no rules about verifying truth. There will be rules against inciting violence, but they will be enforced selectively against those who espouse anti-Trump viewpoints.
It’s very unlikely there would be any enforced rules about hate speech.
It’s not clear if the site would require a “real names” policy (like Facebook, but unlike Twitter).
I would expect very little enforcement activity against harassment. As a result, both “official” volunteer community moderators and the general rank and file of members will relentlessly hound anyone expressing skepticism of Trump off the platform. That’s what happened on Parler.
Anyone Trump or Scavino wants off the platform will get booted on the flimsiest of pretenses.
The resulting social network will become a self-reinforcing miasma of racism, hate, and anti-immigrant fervor, along with a bubbling cauldron of memes and insults directed at “libtards,” liberal politicians in general, the “Squad” in particular, RINOS (Republicans in Name Only), and journalists.
I’d also expect a swelling of groups dedicated to Qanon, antivax and antimask views, other conspiracy theories, gun glorification, doxxing of liberal targets, white supremacy gatherings, counterprotests, and January 6-style anti-government insurrection.
So, basically, a great big global virtual barbecue of Trumpism and all associated ideas and groups.
Because of Section 230 protections, this social network will operate free of liability for the actions of its members, including, of course, the former president. I’d also expect this social network to be hosted and run on servers outside the United States, to avoid threats of legal shutdown.
Some of the actions of its members will spill over into real-world violence. (Social networks that purport to try to manage such activity often fail — this one won’t even try.) As a result, the FBI will need to investigate the social network’s role in enabling violence, actions which Trump will describe as Biden Justice Department harassment.
Will the network “succeed”?
If by “success” you mean a profitable, open, diverse, vibrant social network, well, you won’t see that.
But it will succeed in its main goal, which is to create a Twitter-like platform free of restrictions on which Trump can say anything he wants, attract followers, post media, insult and harass opponents, and raise money.
That’s not a social network of the type that I observed over the last 15 years. But it is an online community. It will thrive, after a fashion. And it will accomplish the goals of its founders.