Conservatives Anticipate Trump’s Social Media Return

By Nihal Krishan January 29th, 2021 | Image Source: Vanity Fair

Trump allies foresee a split between the former president and the GOP in their choice of social media, a fracture of the online Right that could make it more difficult to organize to regain majorities.

After being banned by almost all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, after the violent Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Trump has mused about jumping to a new platform or building one of his own. Despite Trump’s ban, most conservatives and Republicans are likely to remain on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

Neil Chilson, acting chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission for a year during the Trump administration, said the split is “an accurate snapshot of the current Republican Party, of people not paying as much attention to Trump anymore.”

Former Trump officials told the Washington Examiner that most conservatives will likely stay on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter but that some may experiment with new platforms while continuing to use old ones. Prominent Republicans such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have already been trying this double-pronged approach for months now, trying alternative platforms such as Parler while also continuing to post on Twitter.

The officials said the social media split could create a Balkanization or fragmentation among conservatives online, which could make it more difficult for the community to organize and fight against the Democratic majority. Trump’s influence over conservatives and the conversation online has also taken a significant hit without his signature tweets.

When Trump was on Twitter, most conservatives unified around “supporting or decrying what he was tweeting,” Chilson said. Now that Trump has been removed from social media, “people are having to state their own positions rather than parroting Trump or pushing back against him,” added Chilson, who is now a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, a libertarian research organization.

It’s not clear yet if conservatives will soon coalesce around one or two platforms or if the social media divide will continue in the long run.

Private messaging services such as Signal and Telegram and alternate social media platforms such as Gab and MeWe have seen a large spike in users since Trump’s ban. These alternatives to Facebook and Twitter have been particularly popular among conservatives and Trump supporters.

Some former Trump officials said it was inevitable that a divide would be created between Trump and other conservatives online after the recent Big Tech bans.

“If Trump can’t communicate on the big platforms, then he’s going to want to communicate somewhere, so that obviously creates a split within the party,” said Nathan Leamer, a top tech policy adviser at the Federal Communications Commission for almost three years of the Trump administration.

Leamer said the only way this split would not occur is if Facebook and other major platforms reverse their decision to ban Trump, which is a possibility.

”It’s very likely that people won’t leave the big platforms to join Trump somewhere else,” said Leamer, who is now vice president of public affairs at Targeted Victory, a conservative political advertising firm.

“A large number of conservatives changing their social media platform for one person seems unlikely,” Leamer said. He added that only “a few outliers” are likely to switch platforms for Trump.

A former senior Trump administration official within the tech industry said that Trump’s struggle to find a new channel of communication and conservatives’ desire for less content moderation online would not necessarily be solved by the same platform.

“Solving both problems with the same platform is just too simplistic,” the former Trump official said.

Instead, he said it was more likely that Trump would broadcast his thoughts on one platform while the conservative community online coalesced around another platform or group of platforms, including old guards such as Facebook and Twitter.

One reason that conservatives are highly likely to remain on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is because they “want to keep owning the libs,” said Chilson. The appeal of established platforms, he said, is that they allow users to engage positively or negatively with people who disagree with them.

“People don’t just want an echo chamber where everyone agrees with you. That’s no fun,” Chilson added.

Author: Nihal Krishan, Big Tech Reporter

Source: Washington Examiner: Trump could split online Right with social media platform plans

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