Ex-president and incumbent goblin king Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he is launching Truth Social, a MAGA competitor for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, where bigots and conspiracy theorists can roam free from the prying eyes of mods. That is extremely bad news for its circus parade of competitors, including Capitol attack hangout Parler and myriad other C-list contenders for the right-wing social throne.
To GETTR, the death-spiraling social network helmed by longtime Trump adviser Jason Miller, it must be humiliating.
For those with a blessedly short memory of everything having to do with the Donald, the ex-president got banned from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and virtually every other mainstream social media site after he incited his supporters to attack the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. Right-wingers went into a predictable uproar, but for social networks that had marketed themselves as free speech havens standing up to Big Tech tyranny, it was an opportunity to lure Trump and his considerable fanbase to their coffers.
Parler, which is backed by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer and reportedly so desperate for Trump’s patronage that it offered him a massive de facto bribe, never managed to get him to set up shop. Trump didn’t immediately register for any of its other competitors either and instead started his own blog—which he promptly ragequit after it generated only pathetic numbers of page views. In June, aide Miller, still working for Trump at that point, explained that the blog was “just auxiliary to the broader efforts we have and are working on.”
Not long after, someone on Trump’s team began teasing that Trump would soon join a “next-generation” social media site, and Miller left to become GETTR’s CEO amid an attempt to generate media buzz this was the project the ex-president was so excited about. It’s reasonable to guess Miller may have thought his old boss had his back. But Trump is if nothing else a habitual backstabber and steered clear of Miller’s site when it launched on July 4. (He did join Rumble, a conservative YouTube clone.)
GETTR apparently originated from a web of companies operated by Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman who fled the country in 2014 to evade what he says are politically motivated charges of corruption and worse, like kidnapping and rape. Guo has spent much of his time in the U.S. since exhibiting behavior that strongly suggests there was a little more truth to those accusations than he claims. Despite efforts to obfuscate his financial ties, Guo is very obviously the key figure in a network of shady media companies that promote far-right conspiracy theory content and disinformation (three of which just settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $539 million over fraud accusations) and is the architect of a cult of personality-like following in the Chinese diaspora.
Guo and the media companies associated with him have extensive ties with Steve Bannon, the gasbag Breitbart News co-founder and former White House chief strategist—when the FBI arrested Bannon for his role in a GoFundMe-based “We Build the Wall” scam, it was on Guo’s yacht. According to the Daily Beast, GETTR and its predecessor site Getonme may have originated as a vanity project for Guo. GTV, one of the sites tied to Guo, promoted GETTR as a source for “virus truth” for weeks before launch and early adopters appeared to consist mostly of Guo stans. To put it another way, there are clear signs that GETTR’s pitch to the MAGA crowd was a hasty rebrand of a Guo fansite, which Miller was brought on board to pull off.
Another reason Trump may have kept his distance is that it was immediately clear on launch that GETTR was a product of staggering incompetence—for example, it was immediately hacked to edit all users’ profiles, and an insecure API allowed hackers to scrape and dump information on tens of thousands of users. Many of the users that joined appeared to be trolls interested in little more than posting anime porn and photos of men in diapers, and later its near-complete lack of moderation reportedly led to it being flooded with Islamic State propaganda and child abuse imagery.
“Those problems were resolved immediately,” whoever runs the email@example.com account told Gizmodo via email.
“GETTR, which does not cancel people for their political opinions, officially launched on July 4th and already is approaching three million registered users,” they added. “GETTR achieved its first million users less than three days after launch and cemented its place in history as the fastest growing social media platform ever. By comparison, Twitter took 24 months to attract one million users while Facebook took 10 months.”
A quick search on GETTR showed that news of Trump’s announcement was sparking both interest and a fair bit of confusion as to which site would be the preferred destination for the MAGA crowd.
According to App Annie, GETTR was ranked as the 79th most downloaded social media app on Android as of Oct. 14, and in 186th place on iOS. On Oct. 21, App Annie ranked GETTR as 86th in the category for free social networking apps on iOS, behind others like “Homework_Helper,” “Addchat - Random Chat,” and “Cougar: Dating Mature Women.” On the matching Google Play category on App Annie, it was listed as 76th, coming in behind competition like “Jekmate Shows - Private Video Streaming & Pics” and “IWantU - Real Local Dating”.
GETTR didn’t respond to a question about how it would fare now that Trump has created his own competitor, or whether Miller had been under the impression Trump would be joining GETTR when he departed from the ex-president’s employment. But it did forward a statement in which Miller, probably through gritted teeth, congratulated Trump for supposedly helping him erode Twitter and Facebook’s market share and admitted they “couldn’t come to terms on a deal”:
“Congratulations to President Trump for re-entering the social media fray! Now Facebook and Twitter will lose even more market share. President Trump has always been a great deal-maker, but we just couldn’t come to terms on a deal. And get ready for the new platform features GETTR has on the way: live-streaming, GVision short videos and our GETTR Pay payments system capabilities. Exciting new additions that will provide our global customer base an even better user experience. Let the downloads begin!”
According to Raw Story, in an interview on Real America’s Voice on Thursday, Miller said the president was a “very tough negotiator” and “There were a couple of moments during the last few months where I think I remember that from chapter 7 of Art of the Deal and so I’m kind of living it in real-time.” He reassured viewers (and possibly himself) that he and Trump were “still very strong allies” and he is “still his number one wingman. We’re just in a little bit of a competition right now on the social media side but it will be good to have his voice back out here.”
In a live stream on GETTR the same day, Miller came off as slightly more desperate, telling users “This has never been just about one person.”
Whether the respect is mutual is questionable. In the pitch deck for Truth Social, someone on Trump’s team took an unsubtle dig at the site, superimposing its logo on a Chinese flag.