The rise of alternative social media spaces resolves bias concerns felt by conservatives, like myself, who see double standards running amok by established tech giants like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook trying to disproportionately ostracize our voices.
It seems like everyone should be happy: a space for you; a space for me. But the downside to all of this is that social media is on the cusp of growing more ideologically balkanized.
As division continues to be a problem in the country, we need to pay attention to how the actions of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have played a role in deepening the divide.
There is now a conservative answer to many of the main social media platforms we have grown accustomed to over the years.
Truth Social, the platform led by former President Donald Trump, is expected to launch Feb. 21 — Presidents Day — according to its description in the iOS App Store, where it’s available for preorder. Product snapshots of Truth Social on the App Store look an awful lot like Twitter.
Rumble, a YouTube competitor popular with conservatives, reported it had 44 million monthly active users in August. It plans to go public in the second quarter of this year, with a current valuation of $2.1 billion. A Canadian firm launched in 2013, Rumble filed a lawsuit in January 2021 against Google for more than $2 billion in damages, claiming the Silicon Valley giant manipulates its algorithm to favor Google’s YouTube over Rumble in search results, reducing advertising revenues. “We will defend ourselves against these baseless claims,” a Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal after the suit was filed. In a motion filed in June, Google asked the court to dismiss and strike parts of Rumble’s complaint.
Another startup, Gettr, which supporters call “the Twitter killer,” launched in July. The platform got a huge boost last week when broadcasting phenom Joe Rogan joined. Gettr spokesman Kaelan Dorr told me Rogan was not paid and heard about it organically from a guest on Rogan’s show.
Dorr also said the platform now has more than 4 million registered users, and its biggest user base is the United States, with 2.2 million users, followed by Brazil at half a million (Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a prominent user) and the U.K., Germany and France at over 300,000 each. To block lewd, obscene and violent content, Dorr said the platform’s content “moderation leadership has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 moderation and community management experience.”
Some may look at Twitter’s 330 million monthly active users and say there is no way Gettr’s 4 million could rival it, but that’s still, significantly, 4 million people who have found this conservative-leaning community appealing in some way.
“I think when Joe Rogan joined Gettr, it represented the ‘Great Awakening,’ and it triggered almost a million people to open accounts in the week after his announcement,” Gettr CEO Jason Miller said in an emailed statement to me, via Dorr. “Rogan is not a right-winger, but is instead a guy who cuts through the prevailing narrative and calls it like he sees it. He is willing to allow competing ideas to be heard, which is what we provide on Gettr.”
Other prominent Gettr users include Canadian author Jordan B. Peterson, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Dozens of members of Congress — including Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., plus the U.S. House Freedom Caucus — are also using the platform.
I asked if Miller was concerned about whether America would grow more polarized by the growth of conservative social media enclaves. “We welcome people from across the political spectrum, because true liberals should value free speech just as much as the most conservative person should,” Miller said. “We want vigorous debate on our platform, not an echo chamber. That’s what Twitter has become, with the vast, vast majority of users adhering to leftist points of view.”
Another Gettr user is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose personal Twitter account was recently permanently suspended for violating the platform’s Covid-19 misinformation policy.
As a conservative, I won’t condone offensive statements every conservative has made, but there’s strong evidence that Twitter, and other tech giants, have a blatant double standard for what it flags as offensive speech.
Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal, said in November 2020, while serving as the company’s chief technology officer, “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation, and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation.”
The problem with Agrawal’s stance is that it further sequesters liberals from exposure to conservative ideas (while infuriating conservative consumers). An October 2020 Pew Research Center study found that “a small minority of users create the vast majority of tweets from U.S. adults, and 69% of these highly prolific tweeters are Democrats.”
Pew found that not only are Twitter’s top users more likely to be Democrats, they are liberal Democrats instead of centrist Democrats. While an internal Twitter study found bias in its algorithm for select conservative politicians and news outlets, even if something conservative goes viral on Twitter, it does not mean it is qualitatively presented in a favorable way. According to the Pew study, between Nov. 11, 2019 and Sept. 14, 2020, Trump was mentioned at least once by 13 percent of Democratic Twitter users (compared to 12 percent of Republicans). That’s a lot of hate tweets!
Bias goes beyond just Twitter to Facebook, which veteran libertarian journalist John Stossel is suing for alleged defamation after the company’s fact-checkers put this label on his video: “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” If viewers are interested in knowing more about the fact-checkers findings, then they can click to get more information, which eventually leads them to this: “Claim — ‘forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.’ Verdict: misleading.” Stossel’s suit said he never made that claim.
Ironically, Facebook’s response to Stossel’s lawsuit asserted it cannot be sued for defamation because its “fact checks” are actually “protected opinion.” Sounds Orwellian to claim facts are opinions, doesn’t it?
This is yet another example of the company’s fact-checkers having a left-leaning bias. When asked by CNN in 2020 if Facebook fact-checkers had a bias against conservatives, a spokesperson referenced the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles, which all of the platform’s fact-checkers have to sign. It states that fact-checkers must “not unduly concentrate its fact-checking on any one side.” But many conservatives have long complained about the company’s fact-checking bias.
Big tech could help itself and the country by using the same rules, regardless of political viewpoint. Legacy Big Tech is at a crossroads: allow more balanced dialogue or risk losing market share to upstart conservative bootstrappers.