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Trump supporters are flocking to social media sites MeWe, Gab and Rumble amid a Big Tech crackdown on violent posts.
Gab, a service that claims to defend free speech, said it added 600,000 new users over the weekend. Meanwhile, MeWe, a similar service, said it has added 400,000 users every day since Saturday and now has more than 14 million members.
The gains follow the Sunday shutdown of conservative social network Parler, which was disconnected after Amazon web hosting service rejected Speaking as a Client due to violent messages and threats in the wake of the Capitol Riot. Shortly before, Apple and Google had banned Parler from their app stores.
In addition to the increased interest in alternative social media sites, Twitter and Facebook are banning President Trump and other high-profile conservative figures. After the Capitol riots, Twitter and Facebook both expelled Trump from their services for inciting violence.
On Monday, Facebook took the extra step of removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal” in hopes of preventing further violence. This phrase is a popular rallying call from Trump supporters who mistakenly believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.
“It’s almost the perfect storm,” said MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein. “The crucible of people who come to Me We come from all directions.”
MeWe was the fifth most popular free app on Apple’s App Store and Google Play on Monday. Weinstein insisted that his goal is to be “more vigilant” in moderating the content of his service, and that he doesn’t want to be an “all is well” app – a thinly veiled blow from the lax approach to Speaking.
He said MeWe has just under 100 content moderators who review posts on its service, and that they actually adhere to “strict” terms of service that include the ability to alert authorities to any messages of concern. .
Weinstein acknowledged that part of the growth in MeWe users was due to the shutdown of Parler. But he added that the app was growing ahead of the elections and riots. As a result, he said that MeWe users have a wide range of political opinions and are not just Trumpists.
“These other guys are opinion chambers,” he said of Parler and Gab. “We are a social network.”
The rise of alternative social media services began late last year after Facebook and Twitter began tagging and removing more posts on their services for election misinformation. The Conservatives saw the crackdown as proof of bias against them and President Trump.
For example, Rumble, a little-known YouTube rival, suddenly mounted in popularity. Over the weekend, users downloaded its app 162,000 times, almost 10 times more than last weekend.
But Mark Shmulik, analyst at investment bank AB Bernstein, said he doesn’t expect MeWe and Gab’s latest surge in popularity to be lasting. “It’s a fad,” he says. “There will be a small niche, but that won’t disrupt what we’re seeing on Twitter.”
Shmulik said that Twitter and Facebook, while growing slowly, are much bigger and also attract a more diverse set of users with a diverse set of thoughts. That’s what makes big social media companies more engaging than upstarts, he added, whom he described as “the equivalent of Trump rallies.”
“You can continue this, but at some point you have to reach out to the masses,” Shmulik said.
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