Former president Donald Trump isn't among the ones who can be silenced so easily. After being banned by Facebook and Twitter, he has decided to go back to his old account on social media platform Gab. In his first social media post since January 8 (the day he was banned by Twitter and Facebook), Trump on Thursday uploaded his lawyer's response to demands he testifies at his second impeachment hearing next week.
Interestingly, the lesser-known Gab has been a surprise beneficiary of the bitter spat between Trump and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitch, Shopify, Stripe, and YouTube, among others. Over the past month, Gab has been gaining substantial number of users, thanks to Trump. However, it's quite unlikely that Trump will manage to gain back followers there given that Gab in its two years of existence has struggled to grow in popularity.
Trump Back on Social Media
Trump is trying hard to reach his voice to millions of his followers but a ban by Twitter and Facebook has posed as a hindrance. Helpless, he has decided to use his old Gab account to make his presence felt on social media. His first major presence was felt on Gab on Thursday after he posted a letter addressed to Congressman Jamie Raskin.
The letter reads: "We are in receipt of your latest public relations stunt. As you certainly know, there is no such thing as a negative inference in this unconstitutional proceeding." While his return to social media was nothing but a repost of his lawyers' letter, it carried all the characteristic defiance of Trump.
Trump's attorneys were replying Raskin who had made a request to the former president to appear before or during the trial, subject to cross-examination, pointing to the testimonies of former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton while in office.
Although Trump's post was noticed by many of his followers, it might be difficult for the former President to make any gains by shifting to other social media platform, especially Gab, despite the company reporting a surge in its user base over the past month.
Can Gab Benefit?
Gab came to existence two years back but has not been able to taste success although it has users grows over the past month. On January 9, Gab in a twee said that was gaining more than 10,000 users every hour and registered 12 million visits in 12 hours following the suspension of Trump's Twitter account.
"Gab gained more users in the past two days than we did in our first two years of existing," the company had said in a now-deleted tweet. "In very short order Gab will be bigger than the entire legacy media combined."
Who is Behind Gab?
However, the big question remains how long it can hold on to this given that Trump himself had lost a number of followers in his last days as the President given the unpopularity and criticism he had drawn.
Gab was launched by Andrew Torba, a "Christian technology entrepreneur" after the big tech censorship following the 2016 US Presidential Election. But Gab was always conservative and as Torba had said in an earlier interview to Washington Post it was launched in response to other social media platforms which were run by "progressive Silicon Valley leaders." "I felt that it was time for a conservative leader to step up and to provide a forum where anybody can come and speak freely without fear of censorship," Torba had told The Washington Post in 2016.
Surviving in Difficult Times
Gab came to prominence following the Pittsburgh shooting in 2018 after it was revealed that the shooter had posted anti-Semitic comments on the social media platform shortly before killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue. Gab suspended the account after condemning the account but by that time its image was already tarnished.
Following the revelations, Google removed it from the Play Store over its hate-speech policy. A few days later Apple blocked the app over pornographic content, while PayPal cancelled Gab's account and dropped it from its original domain host. Also, Amazon stopped allowing Gab to raise money using its Amazon Web Services.
However, Gab managed to survive even after being banned by over 25 service providers, app stores and payment processors. As days passed and Silicon Valley started becoming stricter with it content policy which saw removal of controversial accounts through 2020, Gab became their new destination.
Yet Another Attempt by Trump
Trump is just among those users who after being banned by multiple Silicon Valley-run social media platforms have fallen back on Gab. But that may not be of much help although Gab has welcomed him with open arms.
In fact, this has been also the survival strategy for Gab. After Facebook suspended Qanon accounts, Torba came up with a blog post welcoming followers of the conspiracy theory to Gab.
Trump taking refuge in Gab is unlikely to win him back the followers. At the most he can command a fan base comprising Qanon theorists and 'cancel culture' refugees who were booted out by Facebook and Twitter.