Former President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media on May 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool / Getty Images)
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Former President Donald Trump’s proposed social network is now going to rely on a video-sharing site known for spreading anti-vaxxer and QAnon conspiracies to provide its video and streaming services, the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMGT) announced last night.
Truth Social, which is part of the proposed TMGT media empire, will partner with Rumble in a “wide-ranging technology and cloud services agreement.” The companies are also apparently in “exclusive negotiations” to launch a subscription-based streaming service called TMGT+.
Interestingly, the press release claimed that Truth Social has already launched to “invited guests only” and that Rumble was already providing the cloud services to the beta version. Back in October, when Trump announced his new enterprise, the former president said that a beta version of Truth would go live in November.
It isn’t clear if the site has indeed launched in any capacity, how many invited guests are using Truth Social, or who those guests are.
What is clear however is that a partnership with Rumble would make a lot of sense. Rumble is a Canadian tech company launched in 2013. However, its popularity spiked in the last 12 months thanks to support from right-wing figures like Donald Trump Jr. and Dan Bongino. The company has also secured the financial backing of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel and Hillbilly Elegy author and Senate candidate JD Vance.
Rumble advertises itself as a free-speech alternative to YouTube and other mainstream social networks, but the site is actually filled with conspiracy-laden videos including channels run by many of the biggest QAnon influencers who were kicked off of YouTube and Facebook during the last 12 months.
Rumble claims that it doesn’t promote conspiracies, but that’s demonstrably not true; a quick search for topics like vaccines disproves this as many of the top results contain misinformation.
The business plans of these two companies are also raising questions.
Despite the fact that Truth Social hasn’t launched any services or products yet, and was hacked within minutes of being announced, some investors are still drooling over a Trump-branded media empire; the company has an implied valuation of over $10 billion. Still, its investor presentation was strewn with errors and featured some details copy-and-pasted from the internet.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was recently appointed CEO. TMTG is planning to go public in a deal with a SPAC or a blank check company—an entity solely to pool resources to fund a merger or take a company public—in a move that has raised red flags for some investors.
“This is weird and murky,” Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Capital Management told CNN.I’ve never seen anything like this before. And I probably never will again.”
Just like Trump’s company, Rumble recently announced that it was also going public via a merger with a SPAC. Part of the reason Rumble is going public, aside from looking to expand globally, is to raise the money it needs to build out its own online infrastructure to protect itself from what the company sees as the over-zealous censorship and anti-conservative bias of mainstream platforms.
In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Rumble founder Chris Pavlovski said the company “relied on its own hardware in its own data centers instead of on the cloud provided and controlled by Big Tech.”
As investigative journalist Arieh Kovler pointed out on Twitter, that is not entirely true, as Rumble still relies on numerous other companies to keep it online, including giants like Amazon, Apple and Google.
Rumble’s claim to be building its own infrastructure, and the need for it, is part of a wider trend.
Gab, a Christian-focused social network known for harboring neo-Nazis and white supremacists, has also invested heavily in its own infrastructure. Many mainstream service providers cut ties with the network because the suspected shooter in the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh maintained an active account on the platform.
Gab’s CEO has been one of the most outspoken critics of mainstream platforms but he has also been hugely critical of Rumble in recent months, claiming that the platform has gone mainstream. In an email to Gab users on Tuesday night, Andrew Torba said:
“Rumble’s Terms of Service are now no different than any Big Tech platform. The major difference is that unlike Rumble, Big Tech platforms are at least American companies and have the opportunity to defend free speech protected by the First Amendment. Rumble, as a Canadian company, does not. So as Conservatives are being told by the talking heads in Conservative Inc. circles to use Rumble, these are things they should keep in mind.”
But Rumble likely won’t care too much about Torba’s criticism. Like every other alt-tech platform in the last 12 months, Gab has been hoping that Trump would pick their platform as his new online home, bringing with him his tens of millions of supporters.
By partnering with Trump, Rumble has, for now, got one up on its rivals.