Twitter’s Trump Ban Will Mark a New Era for ‘Free Speech’ Social Media Platforms
Twitter permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s personal account Friday evening, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” posed by his tweets in the context of ongoing unrest and violence in Washington, D.C. The president’s removal from his favorite platform created a vacuum for alternative Twitter sites Parler and Gab, both of which have courted Trump in the past.
Shortly after Trump’s ban from Twitter, both Parler and Gab experienced technical issues, likely from the number of users attempting to access their platforms. Parler users encountered a “networking error” on their home feeds.
On Thursday, Gab CEO Andrew Torba issued a statement that “I am in the process of connecting with President Trump’s team as we speak. The president’s Gab account is already reserved with hundreds of thousands of followers.”
“It’s happening,” Torba added. “This is Gab’s moment, one that we have been preparing for now for over four and a half years.”
Trump’s Gab account, which has nearly 500,000 followers, was created by the company in 2016 and has been mirroring posts from @realDonaldTrump on Twitter. He doesn’t personally operate the account, though it has been pre-verified by Gab in preparation for an eventual takeover.
Gab was one of the first platforms to brand itself as a “free speech” social media site and has been a haven for right-wing terrorists and other violent extremists. The app was removed from the App Store and Google Play in 2017 for violating hate speech policies.
In his statement on Wednesday, Torba claimed that Gab’s traffic “was already up 120%+ in 24 hours alone,” following riots at the Capitol by Trump supporters that day.
There is also a Donald Trump account on Parler that uses the handle “realDonaldTrump,” though it’s unclear whether it has been reserved for the president. It is currently locked with zero followers and no activity. On Friday, Apple informed Parler that it had 24 hours to “institute a moderation policy,” or else it would be removed from the App Store, according to BuzzFeed News. And Friday evening, Politico reporter Cristiano Lima said…