Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been blocked by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites since January for being accused of inciting his supporters to participate in Capitol Hill riots. After the incident, the emerging social platform Gab helped back up Trump’s original Twitter account @realDonaldTrump. Recently, Trump launched the Office of Donald J. Trump’s website and his personal website to launch the “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” platform. Does Trump’s strategy allow him to retain influence?
Twitter stated on January 8, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account; due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Subsequently, Facebook and YouTube also made the same decision, which led Trump to criticize the indefinite nature of the ban as beyond the scope of social platforms’ normal penalties.
Gab, an emerging social media platform known for not censoring posts and allowing racist comments, backed up Trump’s Twitter account on January 6. The former president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, intervened to stop the efforts of aides who attempted to get Trump on fringe social media platforms, such as Parler and Gab. Despite this, Trump began posting through the platform on February 5. Immediately after, Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News on March 21, “I do think that we’re going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here, with his own platform.”
In early April, Donald Trump created a new website, 45office.com, the official website of the former president’s office. The website 45office.com, frames Trump as “the most extraordinary political movement in history, dethroning political dynasties, defeating the Washington Establishment, and becoming the first true outsider elected as President of the United States.”
On May 4, Fox News first reported that Trump started “his own platform” called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.” It was reported that this platform allows Trump to post comments, images, videos and allows followers to share the former president’s posts to Twitter and Facebook. One account — which Trump’s team denies ownership of — was already suspended on Twitter for having the handle name ‘@DJTDesk’ to match the name of the site. A Twitter spokesperson stated that they plan to take action on accounts “whose intent is to replace or promote content affiliated with a suspended account.”
On the first day of his new site, the former president posted his repeated and baseless election-fraud claims, similarly to the old attacks to Republican critics and social media companies that he used to Tweet in the past. However, the new platform does not have a feature to allow users to “reply” or engage with Trump’s posts. Canadian Global News mocked the platform as a “one-man Twitter clone.”
On May 5, one day after his new sit was announced, Facebook’s oversight board upheld the company’s decision to ban Trump and said that an indefinite ban was “not appropriate.” The company will now wait six months to determine an “proportionate response” on whether to restore his account or suspend it permanently. This will reveal how the world’s largest social media company chooses to treat rule-breaking political leaders in the future.
Trump had 88.7 million followers on Twitter, 35.2 million followers on Facebook, 24.1 million followers on Instagram and 2.75 million subscribers on YouTube; which are now all frozen accounts. But today, Trump is left with a Gab account, an Odysee account, the 45Office website, and the “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” platform. He is trying to break through the blockade of big tech and create a community of his own.
According to Gab’s public data, Trump’s account still has 2.1 million followers while on Odysee, the video-sharing website, only nearly 52,000 followers remain. Also, according to Alexa’s analysis, Trump’s personal website is declining in several types of views. Trump’s personal website views are dropping from the beginning of February at 13,668th in the world to 32,160th in May, and 5,621st in the U.S. — while the new 45Office website is ranked 20,011th in the world and 8,979th in the U.S.
Other Trump family members have not seen a spike in views either, including Trump’s daughter in-law, Lara Trump. She created The Right View, an online program in attempt to rally the voices of Trump supporters, on another online video platform called Rumble, where she only has 130K subscribers. On YouTube , she has even fewer than 3,740 subscribers and the website is only ranked 917,922th in the world in Alexa analysis.
Viewership and ratings for pro-Trump Cable TV also declined these past months compared to last year. Fox News went down after the election ended and the Capitol riot in January, which attracted the highest ratings on all networks. But most of all, views dropped after its rivals Newsmax and One America News Network, known as OAN, took over.
According to data provided by Newsmax to Eat News, Newsmax is rated as the #4 cable news network this year, with views growing by 16% during the first quarter of 2021 and Total Daytime Impressions being up by 17%. On the other hand, Fox News is declining by 20% and Fox Business is down by 28% for the same quarter of 2021. A Newsmax spokesperson told Eat News, “Newsmax saw incredible ratings growth last year and has not only kept that audience, it continues to grow into this year.”
However, Fox News Channel continues to beat its cable network competitors like MSNBC and CNN. According to ratings reported by Fox, Fox News averaged 2.24 million viewers in primetime this past April, which is 39% down from April 2020. Robert Thompson, a professor of radio and television at Syracuse University, believes Fox News was able to top ratings by building programming around personalities that would attract viewers and keep them watching. He said, “They identified that core audience and gave them exactly what they wanted.” This way Republican Fox viewers got as much Trump-related content as possible that amplified their conservative views. Although Thompson says Fox has an old-school television model, he does not predict it will be overpowered by Newsmax or OAN, and instead will have a long-standing “business model” that has helped them reach this much success.
The main show that continues to raise viewership on Fox is Tucker Carlson Tonight, which broke the record for the highest-rated television program in U.S. cable news history and averaged a nightly an audience of 3 million viewers in April. Followed by the second highest-rated show on Fox, Hannity, which reached a total of 2.7 million viewers this past month. Eventually, Trump expressed his anger with Fox’s election coverage and encouraged his supporters to instead switch to watching more Newsmax and OAN.
The right-wing news channel OAN appeals to a relatively small audience of Republicans, who still believe the election was a fraud, as the platform repeatedly claims. Their online audience which started in November on YouTube, is much bigger with 1.4 million subscribers. However, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 69% of OAN viewers and 77% of Newsmax consumers still continue to get additional political content from Fox News. Overall, the report concludes that far fewer Americans turn to Newsmax and OAN compared to Fox News Channel.
(Victoria Gonzalez contributed to this story.)