Social media platform Reddit shut down “The Donald,” a forum for Trump supporters, on Monday as part of a broader crackdown on groups that broke harassment and hate speech rules . Separately, Twitch, an Amazon-owned video streaming platform, has suspended the Trump campaign channel for violating the rules.
the moves – who came the day after Trump tweeted, then deleted, a video in which one of his supporters shouted “white power” in a confrontation with protesters – were just the latest steps tech companies took to distance themselves from Trump and the extreme movements. right.
In recent weeks, as Twitter has started to apply disclaimer to some of Trump’s tweets for violating his policies, the Trump campaign and many of his supporters online took more interest in the nascent social media platform Speak. The Twitter-like site advertises itself as friendly for free speech and has attracted a small right-wing user base. The likes of Eric Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz both have joined the platform this month, and on June 18, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted, “Hey @Twitter, your days are numbered ”, with a link to Speak.
As the conflict between social media platforms and the right has escalated in recent weeks, the underlying tensions have been mounting for years.
Trump’s first campaign and the populist movement behind it rose to power by diverting attention from mainstream media platforms, often in clever or outrageous ways. The Donald tapped into this strategy, serving as a gathering place for pro-Trump share supporters. memes, many of which are offensive, and strategize how to get them out on the internet, while Trump’s campaign scouted the forum for inspiration.
But The Donald has also been involved in some of the most dangerous trends in right-wing internet populism: in 2016, the forum was instrumental in promoting “Pizzagate,” a bogus internet conspiracy theory about powerful pedophiles operating in a Washington pizzeria that inspired a North Carolina man with an assault rifle stormed the business.
In part because of such incidents, the president’s most staunch supporters, as well as other far-right extremists associated with Trump’s brand of populism, have long posed a dilemma for social media companies. Platforms have faced calls from Democrats and civil society groups to more closely monitor their online behavior, but companies have often been reluctant to give up the engagement provided by these users, invest in the app or to risk censorship complaints from supporters of the president.
Calls for a crackdown first gained traction after a white nationalist rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., Turned deadly. National outrage prompted social media platforms, payment processors and web hosts to crack down on white nationalism, a move that was largely successful in reduce the visibility and influence of many of the alt-right’s most notorious figures, such as Richard Spencer.
The tightening of the noose has prompted some members of the far right to create or migrate to online platforms more favorable to their politics. In addition to Talking, there’s Gab, who presents himself as an anti-censorship alternative to Twitter; Discord, a forum for private discussion groups that is popular on the far right; and Urbit, a decentralized computing experiment pioneered by programmer Curtis Yarvin, whose anti-democratic and “neo-reactionary” Internet writings influenced a number of Trump’s populist allies, including, would have, Steve Bannon.
Even these alternative platforms have their limits. Last week Discord closed one of the largest discussion groups associated with “Boogaloo,” a loose-knit far-right movement that is often associated with white nationalism and whose name hints at the idea of an upcoming civil war. Discord took action after a man associated with the movement was accused with murder during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
The efforts of tech companies to curb right-wing populism also pose a dilemma for Trump. Threatening to ditch the platforms may give him a way to fight the restrictions, but the platforms still allow him to directly reach tens of millions of people, making it unlikely that he will quit them altogether.
Instead, long before the latest round of clashes, the president and his supporters had moved away from large social platforms, experimenting with smaller, more controlled digital environments. POLITICO first signaled the Trump campaign’s interest in Speaking Last year. The campaign also made a app for supporters with its own social component a centerpiece of its re-election strategy.
This drift of large platforms now seems poised to accelerate.
As soon as Donald’s ban from Reddit was announced on Monday, his users touted an alternative forum, TheDonald.Win. Asked to comment on the ban, the Trump campaign proposed a statement urging voters to download the campaign app in order to “hear directly from the president.”