A conservative entrepreneur whose pages were banned from Facebook is looking to launch a stone Goliath’s way — although whether it’ll hit remains to be seen.
According to a press release through MarketWatch, Addison Riddleberger said his “innovative new social networking platform geared toward conservatives, TrumpTown.com, has officially opened its virtual doors in an attempt to give users an alternative to Facebook.”
“TrumpTown has been shaped with conservatives in mind,” Riddleberger said in the press release.
“After years of Trump supporters’ right to free speech being silenced by Silicon Valley — and ultimately culminating with my network of conservative followers being purged — I decided the far-left tech industry needed a real competitor. And thus, TrumpTown was born.”
Riddleberger — in full disclosure, a former writer for Conservative Tribune — found himself deplatformed by Facebook just before the midterm elections when his network of pages, followed by 1.5 million people, was deleted with minimal warning by the social media giant.
Riddleberger — whose pages included Standing for Americans, Freedom Catalog and Patriotic Folks — says he was sent a vague warning letter by the social media giant saying that he was in violation of one of its terms of service, although the letter didn’t make it clear what term he was violating.
He told The Western Journal that he originally thought it had to do with a new firm they had partnered with to handle their advertisements, so he suspended them — and all advertisements on his websites — going forward. That apparently wasn’t it, however, since the pages were deleted along with Riddleberger’s personal account.
“I mean, I’m so clueless as to what’s going on because — to spend 25 grand on (Facebook advertising) and to not have a Facebook rep reach out and jump on a call and say, ‘Hey, your investment is at risk of being completely removed, you need to really look at this’ … is absolutely sickening and completely unprofessional,” Riddleberger said at the time.
The press release doesn’t mention whether the TrumpTown venture was being pursued independently of the shutdown of his pages, although one might make assumptions based on the fact that a full-fledged social media platform usually isn’t assembled in several weeks — and, indeed, you’d be right.
“TrumpTown has actually been in development for several months — once my account and pages were shut down, we went into overdrive getting the site into a position where all the basics were in place,” Riddleberger told The Western Journal. “The timing was pretty incredible the way it all came together.”
The idea of a conservative alternative to traditional social media platforms isn’t a particularly new one, although few examples have met with any sustained success. The most notable has been Gab, a Twitter-like platform that promised a policy of unfettered free speech in response to a spate of high-profile social media bans.
The problem for Gab was that while few mainstream conservatives established a presence there — instead deciding to stay on established platforms — the conversation quickly became dominated by either fringe figures or individuals whose speech had gotten them exiled elsewhere. The network came under the microscope because of the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting after it was revealed the alleged killer was a member and often posted his paranoid, anti-Semitic theories there.
Beyond whether TrumpTown can avoid the relevancy trap — it is taking on some of the largest corporations in the world, after all, and even finding a niche audience in such a field can be difficult — there’s also the Gab trap. Riddleberger said avoiding that problem is a matter of who you pitch the site to.
“Gab is a great site in theory — and setting up your platform solely on the basis of free speech is fantastic — but the marketing and execution is where we differ,” he told The Western Journal. “We wanted to angle our site as being a conservative social media alternative first, not just a free speech platform. Our platform offers both characteristics, but leads with the healthy passion that 65 million Americans have toward President Trump and his conservative agenda.”
It’s also worth noting, too, that Gab’s genesis came at a different time — one where bans on social media platforms were rare occurrences, even if they could target high-profile names like Milo Yiannopoulos.
Facebook has become much more aggressive in recent months, not just barring controversial users but blocking ads from Republican congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng and the conservative women’s group Susan B. Anthony List. The network later admitted it had deliberately limited the reach of pro-Trump personalities Diamond & Silk and was lambasted before Congress over its practices toward conservatives — something that raised the level of awareness regarding putative liberal bias on the network. Then, last month, the network purged hundreds of pages and users, an action that disproportionately affected conservative accounts.
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites,” Facebook said in a statement. “Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”
Riddleberger’s pages weren’t a part of that purge but were caught up in a separate action on the part of Facebook; he still hasn’t received any explanation from the platform as for why his pages were banned. He’ll have a platform of his own now, although a considerably smaller one. He doesn’t plan to keep it that way though; in his press release, he said his goal with TrumpTown was “to completely change the game.” Time will tell how that works.
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