Kanye West, Elon Musk, and the Uncertain Promise of a New Internet for Conservatives

New York
CNN Business

A week ago, it was Kanye West temporarily suspended From Twitter for posting antisemitic tweets. Now, the rapper has I agreed to get ParlerAnd the Alternative social platform It’s popular with conservatives, to prevent having to “fear being removed from social media again.”

West, who has legally changed his name to Ye, is just the latest controversial figure to bet on a nascent alternative set of social media platforms favored by conservatives and members of the far-right who claim to be outraged by widespread content modification. services.

Banned from Twitter after the January 6 rebellion, former President Donald Trump endorsed social truthAnd the alternative to twitter. in ship surfaceTrump Digital Media has touted the ambitious potential to create not only alternatives to major social media platforms but also to cloud computing products like Amazon Web Services and the Stripe payment service.

Separately, Peter Thiel, an influential venture capitalist and Republican donor, has invested in Rumble, a conservative alternative to YouTube. Other services, including Gab and Gettr, are also part of what Ben Decker, CEO of digital threat analysis firm Memetica, calls an “alternative social media ecosystem,” bolstered by the “removal of prominent conservative figures” from other, larger platforms in recent years. .

There are a number of possible reasons why the West is such a well-known alien Chaotic business dealings -Maybe they wanted to acquire Parler, a platform that has been home to election denial, anti-Semitism, and QAnon conspiracy theorists. It’s possible that he was frustrated that his anti-Semitic comments were deleted from Twitter

and Instagram, and to permanently discontinue it from the latter. West is also friends with conservative political commentator Candice Owens, who has encouraged the rapper’s political involvement and her husband is CEO of Parler.

In a statement included with Parler’s announcement on Monday, West hinted at the need for a different, safe space for conservatives, a camp he recognizes. “In a world where conservative views are considered controversial, we have to make sure that we have the right to express ourselves freely,” he said. West also discussed the planned Parler acquisition with Trump, a source familiar with the conversation told CNN Monday, though it was not clear whether the two spoke before or after the news of the rapper’s acquisition was announced.

But as serious about the acquisition, which remains largely unclear, West faces an uncertain path forward that reflects the challenges of other services that are unconstrained “freedom of speech.”

For starters, the audience for these alternative platforms remains much smaller than the mainstream services They compete with her. Even if all of Parler’s estimated 40,000 daily active users follow West on the platform, his audience will pale in comparison. To his 31.4 million followers on Twitter, not to mention more than 200 million daily active Twitter users.

And despite insisting on providing an unrestricted home for fringe content, some services, including Parler, have had to make concessions on content moderation to allow it on major app stores. Apple said Last year, it agreed to return Parler to the iOS App Store following improvements the company made to better detect and modify hate speech and incitement, and Google did the same Last month. But even with App Store endorsements, top marketers tend to shy away from showing ads along with controversial content.

Perhaps the biggest wild card of all comes from West’s friend and fellow rich freak, Elon Musk. Billionaire CEO shows Tesla Closer than ever To acquire an already established platform, Twitter, with plans to scale back its content restrictions. (After Parler’s announcement, Musk chirp, and later deleted, “Good times lie ahead!” Along with a meme, the smiling faces of the two men are superimposed over a cartoon.)

Various regulations and commercial interests may prevent Musk from fully committing to allowing anything to remain on Twitter, as they have done with Parler and others. But it might not take much to bring the right tendencies, including influencers, back to Twitter. musk He said he will return Trump account on the platform; And while the former president said he’d stick to the Truth Social, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t at least be tempted to return to Twitter’s biggest tweeter.

Shares of the investment vehicle that was set to cause the Truth Social audience to slump when Musk first announced his plan to buy Twitter, tumbled again earlier this month when Musk revived his proposal to buy it. Likewise, Rumble, which only recently went public via a similar trajectory, saw its stock plummet recently when Musk said the deal was back in business.

Many of the right-leaning personalities who advocated for alternative platforms have cheered Musk’s plan to take control of Twitter, in a sign that they might abandon their dedication to a right-leaning social media ecosystem if a more mainstream platform is willing to welcome them back. radio host Joe Rogan – who previously discussed the move to Gettr – said in a Text message To Musk in April, “I really hope you get on Twitter. If you do, we should have one party.”

Social platforms are attractive in large part because they allow conversations and connections between different types of people. With alternative conservative platforms, the echo chamber may discourage many users. “If you go to these platforms, one conversation will happen,” said Darren Linville, a professor at Clemson University who studies disinformation and inauthentic behavior on social media. Conservative users not interested in politics may also avoid alternative platforms due to other objectionable content they host, according to experts who study the space.

Political rhetoric aside, many of these platforms also suffer from technical issues and poor user interfaces. Unlike its main competitors, these new services lack sufficient resources to fix these issues. This can only make it difficult to compete with Musk-owned Twitter.

“Elon Musk could buy Twitter and say, ‘Trump, you’re back, Kanye, you’re back,’” Decker said, “and then Kanye gets stuck having a relatively old and somewhat irrelevant platform.” any of this.”

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