The world of MAGA social networks is starting to feel as crowded as the landscape of non-MAGA social networks.
Associates of Donald Trump launched an alternative social media site called GETTR on Thursday that was almost immediately overrun by porn and white supremacists. Former Trump aide and spokesperson Jason Miller is the founder of the platform, and another former campaign spokesperson, Tim Murtaugh, is a consultant. The Daily Beast also reported that Guo Wengui, an exiled billionaire from China and associate of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, provided early funding for GETTR. Yet the former president himself is apparently not a part of the venture, as reports indicate he has no plans to set up an account or acquire a financial stake in GETTR. Given the depravity that has already consumed the site, it doesn’t seem very likely he’ll change his mind.
GETTR is a lot like Twitter, except with worse functionality and more racism. The main interface is a feed of posts from accounts you follow. When setting up your account, there’s actually an option to import your Twitter content into GETTR. It appears the platform is reserving handles that prominent conservatives have on Twitter in case they want to join. For instance, you can’t claim the handle @realDonaldTrump; Miller told Politico, “The former president is going to make his own decision, it’s certainly there and ready for him should he make the decision—we would welcome that. There is an account reserved for him and waiting for him but that’s a decision for him to make.” My attempts to snag such a coveted handle revealed that @Mike_Pence, @DonaldJTrumpJr, and @TiffanyATrump have also apparently been reserved. Well-known conservatives like Arizona Republican Party chairwoman Kelli Ward and Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell already have accounts set up. GETTR’s promotional image showing a user named Cameron Miily, though, reportedly actually uses a stock photo of a woman in Kazakhstan.
The allure of GETTR is supposed to be its laxer approach to moderation, a common subject of complaint among right-wingers when it comes to mainstream social media, even as they seem to generally thrive there. However, GETTR leaves the door open for content that even most MAGA fans probably wouldn’t be too comfortable with. As Mother Jones’ Ali Breland reports, in its first day online the platform was flooded with hentai and crude photoshops of Hillary Clinton’s head on a nude woman’s body. Users are also apparently trying to hijack the #QAnon hashtag with outré porn and a picture of a pig with extremely large balls. Mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook typically use automated systems to censor or remove pornography; while GETTR’s terms of service say it reserves the right to remove obscene and pornographic material, it does not seem to have a similar automated system in place.
The platform’s terms of service also note that while it “holds freedom of speech as its core value and does not wish to censor your opinions,” it nevertheless prohibits “hateful, racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable material of any kind.” Yet it’s still easy to find 4chan-level racist shitposting, with users spamming feeds with racial epithets and endorsements of Hitler. Hashtags with slurs are also gaining a lot of traction on the platform. GETTR decided to step in on Thursday to suspend an account belonging to Tim Gionet, better known as Baked Alaska, a prominent white supremacist who was arrested by the FBI for allegedly participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. An account purporting to belong to far-right celebrity Nick Fuentes has also called on his “groyper army” of followers to take over GETTR, and the platform has reportedly begun to suspend some of these users as well. His first post on GETTR read, “Shalom Groypers, time to violate TOS [terms of service].” As is the case on other alternative platforms, GETTR is discovering that it’s tough to draw lines for what does and doesn’t count as “free speech” on the site. Anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election are also gaining traction on GETTR.
After pretty much every major platform either suspended or banned Trump for posts that moderators saw as encouraging the Capitol riot, the former president and some of his supporters have been trying to find a new social media home. Trump and his team had reportedly been in talks over the past year for him to join two other conservative-leaning platforms, Parler and Gab, though the negotiations ultimately went nowhere. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly stepped in to prevent him from joining because he felt the platforms weren’t well managed. The two sites have notably also reserved accounts for Trump in case he eventually decides to join. The former president’s first attempt to stage a comeback on social media was by creating a janky microblog connected to his official website called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” though he decided to shutter the platform due to poor readership and people making fun of him. Last weekend he ended up joining Rumble, a YouTube clone popular among conservatives, where he livestreamed his rally in Ohio. He’s also been teasing the release of his own platform to compete with Facebook, which is apparently separate from GETTR, though the details of the forthcoming project are scant.