56,571 tweets, 88 million followers and a 12-year career on the channel. Donald Trump is said to have gone “ballistic” after Twitter permanently closed his account this week, marking an end to a fractious and weirdly co-dependent relationship with the social media giant. Though his presidential account remains intact, it will only be in Trump’s hands for nine more days until it is passed on to Joe Biden (in another example of norm-breaking behaviour, the Trump team has decided to erase the account of its followers instead of passing them down).
With Trump also banned from Facebook until he is out of office, the President, according to a White House statement (in a now-deleted tweet), is now “negotiating with various other sites” as to where he will go next. Here are his options.
The Gab-Parler nexus
‘Twitter for Nazis’ to their critics and valuable free speech havens to their fans, social media platforms Gab and Parler have become an increasingly attractive venue for all stripes of the Right in recent years. They form a prominent part of the broader constellation of fringe sites on the Trumpnet, which also includes the likes of MeWe, DLiv and Rumble.
Joining these platforms would allow Trump to communicate directly with his most loyal supporters without the meddling interference of Facebook and Twitter technocrats. But herein also lies the challenge — without the blessing of Palo Alto, Trump could find himself “disappeared” once again. Just this week, Amazon and Google suspended Parler for its failure to remove posts for inciting violence on its app store, joining Gab, which has been banned for three years.
A popular choice for heterodox columnists discarded by liberal publications, Substack has been a boon to opinion journalism. Writers on the platform can generate millions of dollars in yearly revenue, it is known to have a very robust attitude to free speech and even if a tiny percentage of Trump’s base paid for a subscription, this income could go some way to bankrolling a 2024 run.
However, longer-form writing has never been Trump’s favoured medium. Deemed ‘post-literate’ by Michael Wolff, the president has always preferred to delegate such responsibilities. And since falling out with his ghost writer, it remains unclear as to who will be tasked with transcribing Trump’s peregrinations onto paper.
Like Substack, a Patreon podcast would have the benefit of independent, crowd-sourced funding. Not only would subscribers have access to weekly streams of consciousness from the ‘Hemingway of 140 characters’, but they would also be treated to exclusive content each week: what did The Donald think of Vladimir Putin? Was he really going to nuke North Korea? Any mistakes and/or regrets?
But as popular as podcasting may be, it is difficult to picture a man so fond of TV shunning the camera for a microphone.
Without doubt his father’s biggest cheerleader, Don Jr told his supporters in the aftermath of the president’s banning to visit his website donjr.com for updates. The website carries a clear warning on its banner: ‘CENSORSHIP IS HAPPENING – SIGN UP TO STAY CONNECTED’.
In spite of the big, bold Trumpian aesthetic and predilection for all-caps on the site, it’s hard to imagine that Don Sr would be content for Jr to be his sole mouthpiece, and this website is likely more of a stop-gap than anything long-term.
Build his own platform
In the now-deleted tweet-statement from the POTUS White House website, the president’s official account announced that it was “looking into possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future”.
Unfiltered and unrestricted, a donaldtrump.com platform might sound like a promising venture for Team Trump. Indeed, it will give Trump full autonomy over the site’s content and liberate him from the constrains of online censorship — or so he might think. If events of the last 12 months have proven anything, it is that there is no corner of the Internet beyond the reaches of the tech overlords — websites rely on Internet Service Providers, hosts and all sorts of infrastructure that can block an address from the world wide web. Should Trump’s website continue to attract the same kind of attention as his Twitter feed, it could theoretically endure a similar fate.
It may be his most likely next move, but even this is not a guaranteed platform.