I’ve seen a lot of stupid startup pitches in my day, but a Donald Trump branded social media network takes the stupid pie.
I can only imagine that we are exactly two months before the FBI’s birthday and that Team Trump is determined to make the old agency perfect Gift this year. Or maybe Trump just likes losing money.
For those who aren’t up to date, here’s a video from Trump’s spokesman discussing the matter yesterday:
Donald Trump spokesman Jason Miller:
“I think we’ll see Pres. Trump is returning to social media with his own platform in likely two or three months. “Pic.twitter.com/csi3VUtzfs
– Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) March 21, 2021
Here’s the meat from Miller’s foray:
I think we’re going to see President Trump return to social media with his own platform in about two or three months. And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket on social media. It will completely redefine the game and everyone will wait and watch to see what exactly President Trump does.
I honestly don’t think Trump is stupid enough to start his own social media network (Miller prefixed things with “I think”). I’m more inclined to believe that Gab or Parler or something like that will restart with a Trump partnership.
But I really hope so Trump founds his own network. As a journalist, it’s always nice to say, “I told you.” And like I said, the FBI would love it. I just don’t see how anyone with a basic understanding of the technology market can even imagine for a second that this is a viable concept.
- If the network were technically solid, innovative, and viable without Trump, you’d have to be an idiot to start it with it. Trump automatically cuts your potential US user base in half and gets worse in non-US markets.
- A Trump social media network needs to be uncensored (or what’s the point?). But you can’t be both anonymous and uncensored if you want to avoid being completely bothered by trolls, bots, and bad actors.
- If anonymous logins aren’t allowed, the FBI will park on them. And it’s safe to say that a Trump network doesn’t have the resources to hold off the U.S. government like Apple does.
- Without self-regulation, an online business is not sustainable as there are only a limited number of hosts available on the scale necessary to support enough users to make a profit.
- There aren’t enough hardcore, conservative advertisers for a Trump-branded social media network to operate under the traditional ad-based social media paradigm.
The core problem of a Trump network is the same as any ad-based company: you get more flies on honey than you do trying to convince people that the US government was overthrown by a conspiracy against you.
It may sound like I’m joking here, but I’m not. That’s the problem. Trump’s brand is based on convincing people that he is the rightly elected President of the United States with no evidence to support that claim. The number of advertisers willing to pay money to support this idea is certainly small.
The only upside here is that Trump is very popular and people love to see what he’ll do next. The downside is that he could be linked to another violent coup attempt at any time. Even if indirectly, until he recognizes the absolute legitimacy of the current US administration, it will be inextricably linked to acts of violence committed on his behalf by those who believe in his unfounded lies.
And as long as this is the case, his social media network cannot survive with traditional advertising revenue.
Of course, there are other ways to fund a social media company as well. Trump could appeal to conservative major investors or develop a subscription-based model. But none of them are sustainable beyond a few months.
Social media companies need a massive user base to be profitable. And if you’re already restricting your audience to people who don’t find Trump uncomfortable, then it’s kind of silly to then further restrict it to people who are willing to pay for social media.
Trump may have conservative support in the upper echelons, but his main supporters are the workers who donate for his political causes. Like tithing in the Church, these supporters may not give in large amounts, but they do give often. And just like tithing in the Church, the relationship changes completely when a nominal fee is charged.
You can’t keep a social media network going with VC investments alone. Without advertising money or a massive subscriber base, the network is already doomed. Also, there will be bigger problems than just convincing donors or users to stand up for the privilege of supporting Trump:
A. The Trump Social Media Network will be the biggest hacking target there is.
B. When hacked, crimes will be exposed.
C. Many other crimes are publicly allowed because Trump supporters are not that smart.
– Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) March 21, 2021
But let’s put on our fancy hats and our clown noses and pretend a Trump-backed social media network can do it make a profit. The next problem: Trump’s brand is anti-censorship.
Unfortunately for Team Trump, the reality of running a social media network is that you have two options: either prohibiting people from shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, or living with a paradigm that a large percentage of them do User is only there to scream “fire” in crowded theaters.
If you don’t have rules against harassment, all you have is harassment. This is just Internet 101. You can’t stop people from arguing. And unless you ban liberals or censor anti-conservative rhetoric, you will have a platform awash with people who oppose Trump, his views and his supporters.
The alternative is a censored network backed by Donald Trump – which would be really fun. Especially since conservatives are notorious for failing to understand the right to freedom of expression.
Image Credit: XKCD
So uncensored? Team Trump has to do what no other platform has managed: find a company willing to host an uncensored social media network. Which probably won’t happen, at least not in the US.
At least it has to be something Rules that prevent, for example, the recruiting of minors, the promotion of violence, and the sale of illegal weapons and drugs. And, as Parler found out the hard way, if you have policies against illegal activity and promoting violence, you need to demonstrate that you have the ability to deal quickly with users violating your regulations.
Trump is going to need a damn good AI team to create some powerful content moderation algorithms. It is one thing to label your network as conservative, another to relate it directly to the face of the right-wing conspiracy theorist movement. That’s quite a target for bad actors.
In order for the Trump-backed network to do the bare minimum to get long-term hosting, it is “censored” just like Twitter and Facebook.
And we still don’t even understand what happens if the U.S. government gives the Trump network the same treatment Apple has received for years. If every court with a hate crime in their district across the country starts submitting the entire database of the network’s user records, Team Trump will be better prepared for an endless battle against law enforcement.
But, hey, don’t let anyone stop me from signing up. It might sound like a bad idea on paper, but when you look at it from the FBI’s perspective, what could be better than a social media network designed to bring millions of anti-government conspiracy theorists together on a single website?
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