Trump was banned from Twitter on Friday
On Friday, the world witnessed the end of one of the most watched pieces of internet real estate: Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
The US President was banned from the social network after the company said he risked inciting violence. It ended a 12-year membership of the social network was fraught with abusive language, repeated rule-breaking and promises to do better.
Twitter had been Mr Trump’s communication method of choice, a seemingly non-stop stream of grievances, displays of support and warnings to his enemies. Since 2009, he had tweeted 56,571 times.
Now that Twitter has cut him off from his 88m followers, where will he go next?
The President briefly popped up on the official @POTUS account, which is tied to the White House rather than Mr Trump himself, to share that he was looking “at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future,” before they were deleted.
Mr Trump has also been a member of so-called free speech network Gab since August 2016, and regularly posts the same messages he shares on Facebook and Twitter there. But his recent utterings have only gathered an average of 1,500 likes.
Trump's response: "We will also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future." pic.twitter.com/5YWUlk3euN
— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) January 9, 2021
But most had bets on Mr Trump turning to Parler, a similar network that had gained more traction due its availability on Android and Apple iOS, where Gab is banned.
However, Google took Parler off its App Store late on Friday, citing a lack of moderation, and Apple threatened to do the same, meaning the app will struggle for relevance. It might appear less attractive to a man who longs for mass popularity. Gab founder Andrew Torba claimed to have experienced tens of thousands of signups on Wednesday evening regardless.
Parler, Gab and private messaging app Telegram have been accused, along with several fringe websites like thedonald.win, of providing a forum for Trump supporters to organise the violent siege of the Capitol building this week.
Gab and Parler deny this is the case, with Gab founder Andrew Torba baselessly claiming that Antifa imposters wrote the violent posts in order to give his “free speech” loyalists a bad name. Parler deleted some of the violent posts, but not until they were widely reported and shared millions of times. Some have called for more violence in the days ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Diplomacy in the age of Trump
If Trump fears possible legal action, now that executives at Twitter and Facebook have accused him of encouraging violence, he may try to steer clear of brands that fall foul of app store policies for that reason.
Live streaming sites like YouTube could be a good bet for Trump, a reality TV veteran, although the Google-owned video platform has already removed a clip in which he told rioters to go home yet in the same breath reassured them “we love you” and they were “very special”.
“I think he will try to get back on Facebook because of the attention it allows,” says Cindy Otis, former CIA officer and disinformation expert.
“Most people who are on Parler haven’t left their mainstream accounts and use them both because they miss ‘arguing with liberals’ and there aren’t any on Parler”.
Otis says Trump will use the stash of phone numbers and email addresses collected under the Trump campaign to hold rallies or even sporting events going forward, in a potential commercial push.
“He has a treasure trove of data on his hands,” she says. “And he is not going to fade quietly into the background.”