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Trump wants his media company to rival Twitter, Netflix and Amazon

Former President Donald Trump applauds supporters prior to speaking at a Turning Point Action gathering, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Former President Donald Trump applauds supporters prior to speaking at a Turning Point Action gathering, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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It may have sounded like an empty threat after a bitter feud with the Big Tech giants, but former President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he would soon launch a media network to rival the "liberal media" and "fight back against" the Big Tech platforms that banned him earlier this year.

Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) is expected to do a soft launch of the social media site TRUTH Social next month and go live in early 2022. The company will also develop a subscription video-on-demand service, TMTG+, that will feature "non-woke" entertainment, news, podcasts and other programming.

The attempt to disrupt the media environment doesn't end there. According to a 22-page slide presentation, TMTG aims to develop a news branch to compete with CNN, a streaming platform to compete with Netflix and internet technology infrastructure to rival Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

"In the year 2021, the media pendulum has swung dangerously far to the left. TMTG intends to even the playing field," the company wrote.

Trump, who will serve as the chairman of TMTG, said the network "was founded with a mission to give a voice to all."

The social media platform is expected to go live roughly one year after Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for repeatedly violating platform rules on misinformation and inciting violence around the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

After being booted from the platforms, Trump teased the idea that he would create his own. The president's advisers hyped the plan, claiming it would be "the hottest ticket in social media."

The company is projecting success based on the growth of digital media and Trump's previous following of over 146 million users across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The company also hopes to "galvanize/unify the fragmented 'non-BigTech' universe" of largely conservative news and social media networks, like OAN, Newsmax, Parler, Gab and Rumble.

"To me, this all has the hallmark of 'I'll believe it when I see it,'" said Ethan Porter, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University.

Part of the skepticism stems from the political nature of the platform, which will likely attract Trump's most ardent supporters. A Hill-HarrisX poll from earlier this year found just one-third of voters said they would use a Trump-backed social media platform. Democrats and independents were least likely to opt-in and 62% of voters who cast ballots for Trump in the last election said they would use the platform.

There is also the strong likelihood that TRUTH Social will face the same problems big platforms and niche start-ups have faced in being overwhelmed with violent, hateful or criminal content. Even Facebook, which has invested massively in artificial intelligence, catches less than 1% of violence and incitement, according to documents leaked by a whistleblower.

"Might it become a hotbed of explicit white supremacy and racism, yes, that wouldn't surprise me at all," said Porter. "Do I think the Trump team has the bandwidth and expertise to deal with that? I don't."

Like other conservative competitors to Twitter and Facebook, TMTG is boasting a platform "that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology." How that will play out when it launches will be seen.

The platforms' terms of service broadly prohibit the use of the site for "illegal or unauthorized" purposes. There are few guardrails against the type of comments or "TRUTHs" a user can post. Users are prohibited from using the site for advertising, data collection, targeting other users and are not allowed to "disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site."

While some may have doubts about Trump's project, the new media company made a big splash on Wall Street Thursday. The formal announcement of the TMTG launch followed the completion of a merger between the company and Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Typically, SPACs are created as shell companies, listed on stock exchanges, so they can merge with other companies and effectively make the other company public.

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On Thursday, the Trump SPAC was the most traded name on the consolidated tape of New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, according to CNBC. The stock price surged over 350% by the end of the day.

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