2021 Prediction #1: Trump will do fine without Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
I’m no Trumper. This prediction has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how social media actually works. Following the U.S. Capitol riot of January 6th, President Trump was bumped from nearly all social media, even YouTube, with many of those changes subsequently made permanent. These moves led to speculation that Trump would be hobbled without his beloved accounts, his immediate impact on public discourse muted without the ability to tweet. While this may be true in the very immediate sense, it won’t last. Even Trump, the technical luddite, will figure it out and roar back shortly with or without those accounts.
This prediction is very similar in thinking to a column I wrote last August -- President Trump thinks he can shut down WeChat: It won’t work. That column made the simple point that such bans are hard to make stick, even for a U.S. President, simply because of the international nature and foreign hosting of the WeChat service.
Today’s prediction, ironically, looks in precisely the opposite direction. President Trump is being very effectively banned from these services, but that won’t work, either.
It won’t work for two reasons. First, while Twitter or Facebook can close Trump’s accounts, the service they can’t ban him from is HTML -- HyperText Markup Language -- the very lingua franca of the World Wide Web. Nobody can be banned from using HTML. The second reason why it won’t work dumping Trump from Twitter, etc. is because the soon to be ex-President is already a global brand and what he has to say is already important to at least the 70-odd million people who voted for him.
All Trump has to do to get back on the air, so to speak, is to start a site like this one, for example.
What won’t work for Trump is shifting toward encrypted platforms like Signal and Telegram, which is what some other pundits have been saying. Those pundits have it exactly wrong. Signal and Telegram are perfect for, say, plotting a revolution, but useless for bloviating and generally insulting the world. Connecting at all through Signal and Telegram is too difficult. It’s a multi-step process that would have to be done 70 million times over. That difficulty is why Trump has no following on LinkedIn, for example. And LinkedIn is way easier to use than Signal or Telegram.
To do the kind of snarky messaging he did on Twitter and Facebook, Trump needs it to be easier to reach him, not harder.
In contrast, switching-over all those MAGAheads to a new Trump blog is just a matter of issuing a press release with the new URL, making clear that this is where the faithful can find him. Within two weeks the followers who really matter will be visiting the blog daily and Twitter will be forgotten as the Trump medium of choice. This is not to say that Twitter will be harmed by Trump’s departure, just that Trump has alternatives.
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are key for those who don’t have a following. The hope in those cases is that the many will discover the one. But in Trump’s case he already has a huge following that will come looking for him anywhere he’s discoverable. In that regard, then, I suppose Trump also needs search engines like Google, at least for awhile, and there’s no way Google is going to ban Trump searches.
So President Trump isn’t gone at all as a social media brand and will soon be back in force and pretty much uncontrollable.