Why Trump’s social media network will be an epic failure

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I’ve seen a lot of silly startup launches in my day, but a Donald Trump-branded social media network takes the silly cake.

All I can understand is that we are exactly two months away from the FBI anniversary and the Trump team is determined to ensure that the old agency perfect gift this year. Or maybe Trump really likes to lose money.

For those not in the know, here’s a video of Trump’s spokesperson discussing the matter yesterday:

Here’s the meat from Miller’s hike:

I think we’re going to see President Trump coming back to social media in probably a couple of months here, with his own platform. And that’s something that I think will be the most popular social media ticket, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everyone is going to wait and watch to see what exactly President Trump is doing.

Honestly, I don’t think Trump is stupid enough to start his own social media network (Miller preceded it with “I do thought”). I’m more inclined to believe we’ll see Gab or Parler or something similar revived with a partnership with Trump.

But, I really hope Trump is launching his own network. As a journalist, it’s always nice to say “I told you”. And, as mentioned, the FBI would love it. I just don’t see how anyone with a basic understanding of the tech market could imagine, even for a second, that this is a viable concept.

Here’s why:

  • If the network was technically sound, innovative, and viable without Trump, one would have to be a fool to start it with him. Trump automatically halves your potential user base in the United States, and it gets worse in markets outside of the United States.
  • 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 disrupted by trolls, bots, and bad actors.
  • If it doesn’t allow anonymous registrations, the FBI will park on it. And it’s safe to say that a Trump network won’t have the resources to fight the U.S. government like Apple does.
  • Without self-regulation, an online business is not viable due to the limited number of hosts available at the scale needed to support enough users to generate a profit.
  • There aren’t enough die-hard conservative advertisers for a Trump-branded social media network to operate under the traditional ad-based social media paradigm.

The central problem with a Trump network is the same with any advertising-based business: you get more flies with honey than by trying to convince people that the U.S. government has been overthrown by a conspiracy against you.

Looks like I’m trying to make a joke here, but I’m not. This is the problem. Trump’s brand is based on people’s belief that he is the rightfully elected President of the United States without any evidence to support that claim. The number of advertisers willing to pay money to support this idea is bound to be small.

The only advantage here is that Trump is really popular and people like to see what he does next. The downside is that at any point he could be associated with another violent coup attempt. Even if only indirectly, until he recognizes the absolute legitimacy of the current US government, he will be inseparable from acts of violence committed on his behalf by those who believe his baseless lies.

And as long as it does, its social media network will not be able to exist on traditional ad revenue.

Of course, there are other ways to fund a social media business. Trump could bring in big conservative investors or come up with a subscription-based model. But none of these are durable beyond a few months.

Social media businesses need massive user bases to be profitable. And if you’re already limiting your audience to people who don’t find Trump obnoxious, it’s a little silly to limit it more to people willing to pay for social media.

Trump may have conservative support at the upper echelons, but his main supporters are the blue collar workers who donate to his political causes. Much like tithing in church, these followers may not give large sums, but they give often. And, just like tithing in church, the relationship changes completely when there is a cover charge to enter.

You can’t maintain a social media network running solely on venture capital investment, so without ad dollars or a massive subscriber base the network is already doomed. Moreover, it will pose bigger problems than simply convincing donors or users to shell out the privilege of supporting Trump:

But let’s put our fancy hats and clown noses on and pretend we’re a Trump backed social media network could generate a profit. The next problem: Trump’s brand is anti-censorship.

Unfortunately for the Trump team, the reality of running a social media network is that you have two choices: either ban people from yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, or live with a paradigm where a big percentage of users are only there to cry “fire” “In crowded theaters.

If you don’t have harassment rules, you will only have harassment. It’s just Internet 101. You can’t stop people from arguing. And, unless you ban the liberals or censor anti-conservative rhetoric, you’re going to have a platform inundated with people who oppose Trump, his views, and his supporters.

The alternative is a Donald Trump-endorsed censored network – which would be really hilarious. Especially since the Conservatives are known not to understand what the right to freedom of expression is.

Credit: XKCD

So, uncensored? The Trump team will have to do what no other platform has done: find a company willing to host an uncensored social media network. Which probably won’t happen, at least not in the United States.

It will be necessary at least to have a few rules that, for example, prevent the solicitation of minors, the promotion of violence and the sale of illegal weapons and drugs. And, as Parler has discovered the hard way, even if you have policies against illegal activity and the promotion of violence, you must demonstrate that you are able to deal with it quickly when users violate your terms.

Trump is going to need a hell of a team of AI to create powerful content moderation algorithms. It’s one thing to brand your network as conservative, it’s quite another to associate it directly with the face of the right-wing conspiracy theorist movement. It’s quite a target for bad actors.

For the Trump-backed network to do the bare minimum to secure long-term hosting, it will end up being just as “censored” as Twitter and Facebook.

And we haven’t even figured out what happens when the US government gives the Trump Network the same treatment it has given Apple for years. When every hate crime court in their district across the country begins subpoenaing the network’s entire database of user records, the Trump team had better be ready for an endless fight against the police.

But, hey, don’t let me deter anyone 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 that aims to bring together millions of anti-government conspiracy theorists on one website?


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