Donald Trump’s social network Truth Social was supposed to have launched in November, but even missed deadlines haven’t stopped the former US president from jubilant announcements.
On Saturday, Mr Trump said “a diverse group of institutional investors” had put in more than $US1 billion ($1.425 billion) to his company, Trump Media & Technology Group, which is set to be listed publicly next year.
His reason for all this? Taking on the same big tech companies that banned him for spreading misinformation and inciting violence earlier this year.
“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American president has been silenced,” he said in October.
“This is unacceptable.”
Independent far-right researcher Dr Kaz Ross told The New Daily that while she hasn’t seen any members of the Australian far-right openly anticipating the new social network, it could still become a serious local conduit for misinformation and hate speech.
“We know that these things come here in waves,” she said.
Facebook has already banned several prominent members of the Australian far-right, while Twitter has also moved to ban right-wing extremist accounts.
“People are always looking for a censorship-free platform and mostly they’re pretty happy with Telegram, from what I can observe,” Dr Ross said.
Federal MP Craig Kelly has 78,000 subscribers on Telegram, while George Christensen has 26,000.
Finding a user base
Although Australia has become an obsession for the far-right in the US and elsewhere, there’s a domestic distinction between the far-right agitators who turn up at protests with Trump flags, and the alt-right pundits who style themselves as more palatable.
Dr Ross says it’s this latter group that is more in tune with the American political class, and they’re likely to be the first to use it locally.
It was a similar story with other platforms that tried to capitalise on large numbers of disaffected Trump supporters who had left mainstream social media – willingly or otherwise.
Upstarts like Parler and Gab saw an initial influx of influencers who had been banned from Twitter, only to fizzle out not long afterwards.
More recently, Twitter clone Gettr was launched on the Fourth of July with the backing of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and former Trump aide Steve Bannon.
The platform got off to a chaotic start after teens mockingly spammed the platform to the point of it being virtually unusable.
These experiences could provide insight into what might happen when Truth Social launches globally.
In fact, Trump’s team already had to stop new users from signing up in October after one early adopter took the username “donaldjtrump” and posted a photo of a defecating pig.
The Steve Bannon effect
Truth Social can be seen as an offshoot of Mr Bannon’s strategy to stir discontent in various pockets to culminate in a wider international culture war, Dr Ross said.
Although Truth Social is an example of Trump going it alone – he and Bannon fell out in 2018 – it wouldn’t be possible had Mr Bannon not laid the groundwork for previous conservative social networks, as well as having contributed to much of the polarisation that is rocking the West right now.
“I believe that we’re at this cultural moment because of Steve Bannon,” Dr Ross said.
“I think Steve Bannon is completely responsible for the weaponising of social media.”