Gab, the Facebook/Twitter knockoff historically popular with white supremacists, is hopping mad that Donald Trump chose video site Rumble instead of it as the ex-president’s new social media destination.
Ever since Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube (to name just the most prominent sites) suspended Trump’s accounts after he helped incite a riot at the Capitol on January 7, resulting in multiple deaths, Trump has been galumphing around searching for a new internet megaphone. He briefly launched his own blog, but pulled a classic blogger move and deleted it in anger, reportedly after it got pathetic pageviews. Other options have been generally unpalatable.
For example, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump was considering no-name contenders like CloutHub and FreeSpace, which might well roll over and let Trump do whatever he wants on them, but are so small that it would frankly look kind of pathetic. Trump never joined far-right site Parler, reportedly after negotiations for Trump to get a slice of the site’s stock ended in nothing. Then there’s Gab, an alternative social media site founded by Trump supporter Andrew Torba that is crawling with anti-Semites, racists, and neo-Nazis.
Gab is probably best known for being the platform of choice for a mass shooter who killed 11 people and wounded six others at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, but it was also used by Capitol rioters to organise online. Torba is perhaps best known for furious diatribes in which he characterises claims that he or his shitty site is racist or anti-Semitic as left-wing media smears, despite bounteous evidence suggesting that is exactly what they are.
As Slate reported, Torba has since posted to Gab speculating that perhaps Trump joining Rumble was the work of Jewish people.
“On the day President Trump joined Rumble they changed their terms of service to ban “hate speech’ with an explicit ban on ‘anti-semitic’ messages, also known as any and all criticism of Israel and/or Jewish people,” Torba wrote. “No mention of banning Anti-White hatred, which is still allowed.”
Slate noted that Torba appeared on the extremist outlet TruNews earlier this month to claim that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who happens to be Jewish, had demanded that Torba remove anti-Semitic hate speech as some sort of prerequisite for joining Gab. (Torba wove a tale in which he explained that Kushner “called them Jew-haters, I called them Jew criticisers,” and then rambled on about how Gab’s position is that any speech that isn’t illegal or threatening violence is allowed on the site.) Kushner’s name has popped up in media reports that he intervened to stop Trump from joining either Parler or Gab, but no sources have ever claimed Trump negotiated with Gab other than Torba and the reports didn’t mention efforts to have the sites change their policies.
John Matze, who was the CEO of Parler until GOP mega-donor and company chairman Rebekah Mercer reportedly pushed him out in an internal power struggle, posted his own theory to Gab: Rumble simply paid Trump off.
“I wonder how much equity or money Rumble had to give… The same rumble that runs entirely on Google ads. Google analytics, etc… IE big tech..”, Matze posted, according to Slate. “Not that I think Trump’s brand is worth anything anymore.”
As previously mentioned, Matze has claimed to have some personal experience with the matter. BuzzFeed reported that sources and documents showed that throughout 2020, Parler offered up to give up to as much of 40% of its total equity to Trump if he registered an account. The deal, which would have been tantamount to a bribe as Trump was in office at the time, was never finalised. BuzzFeed reported that White House lawyers intervened to nix the negotiations, citing ethics rules.
In the wake of the Capitol riot and reports of Parler users’ involvement, Apple and Google kicked Parler’s app off their respective stores and Amazon terminated its cloud hosting. Matze, still CEO at the time, wrote in filings in a failed suit demanding Amazon reinstate its hosting that Trump had considered joining Parler under the cringeworthy moniker “Person X.”
Rumble is a fitting garbage dump for future Trump videos. Originally a clearinghouse for licensing viral videos, Rumble saw a number of prominent Republicans including Rep. Devin Nunes and former NRATV host/insufferable pundit Dan Bongino register accounts throughout 2020, in response to claims conservatives were being censored elsewhere. (They were not; Bongino actually runs a not inconsiderable right-wing media empire on Facebook and continues to tweet despite promising to leave Twitter forever.)
Rumble proved eager to cash in on the potential new audience. Today, its content consists largely of conservative outrage bait like news clips re-uploaded with angry captions, right-wing podcasts, reaction videos by Donald Trump Jr., and fawning vanity accounts like the “Devin Nunes Press.” Cincinnati-based Narya Capital, which is run by Hillbilly Elegy author and potential Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance and is backed by venture capital vampire Peter Thiel, recently invested big money in Rumble in a deal that reportedly valued it at $US500 ($641) million. (Disclosure: Thiel secretly funded a lawsuit that led to the bankruptcy of Gizmodo’s former parent company, Gawker Media.)
Trump’s YouTube channel, which is currently locked down on an indefinite basis, has 2.75 million followers. As of Wednesday morning, he has just over 400,000 on Rumble. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s account on the video site, which compared to major social media platforms has far fewer resources at its disposal to market itself to new users or maintain their interest in the long run, will fare any better than the deleted blog.
Rumble didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story, but we’ll update in the scenario we hear back.