Will Trump be allowed on it?
Seriously, though, does Devin Nunes have any idea of what sort of clientele a Trump-branded version of Twitter is going to attract? There’ll be some normies, sure. And if by “family-friendly” he means filtering out porn, that should be easy enough to do. Even though it’d be ironic for a business owned by a guy who’s appeared on the cover of “Playboy” and is known for hooking up with porn stars to go that route.
But most people attracted to partisan alternatives to mainstream social media platforms are there to indulge their ideological id. You don’t sign up for GETTR, for instance, because you want to debate the virtues of lower marginal tax rates with like-minded small-government conservatives. You sign up because you want to say the stuff you’ll get banned for saying on Facebook.
So we’ll have to see what Trump and Nunes have in mind by way of “family-friendly” content. No nudes, fine. But will Groypers be free to speak their minds? Can users call for “Second Amendment solutions” for some of their least favorite Democrats?
How about vaccine misinformation? Trump has been a surprising beacon of sanity about vaccination lately, correcting some of his fans who insist the vaccines don’t work by reminding them of the protection they provide against severe illness and death. But given the appeal of “TRUTH Social” to MAGA populists, my guess is that it’ll be wall-to-wall anti-vax in short order. In fact, Nunes seems to be counting on it:
Nunes doubled down on that point, reminding that TRUTH Social will be “open for all ideas, all political debate from the left to the right.”
“We’re not going to censor anybody because they have a different opinion about, for example, a COVID vaccine,” Nunes said. “That is what the open internet is all about—it should be for the free flow of debate and ideas all over the globe, so that people can learn from one another and debate with one another.”…
“We want people to have a good experience on the platform, and they are not going to have a good experience if there is illegal activity on the platform, so that is the real necessity for this [content moderation],” Nunes said.
There’s not going to be any “political debate” on the site, just like there isn’t anything approaching real debate on Twitter. What there will be is an overwhelmingly righty audience chronically irritated by a small number of active left-wing trolls, which will itself force Nunes to make some hard content decisions. Should trolling be banned if it doesn’t involve “nudity, drugs, violence, hate speech, spam and bullying,” which is what the site will be looking out for initially? If liberals produce a meaningful number of “Trump sucks” posts on the site and Trump gets annoyed, are all of those liberals banned?
One could argue that “Trump sucks” isn’t “family-friendly” and therefore should be banned on those grounds, but I’m guessing “Biden sucks” won’t be off-limits.
Nunes is worried about the site being spammed with truly nasty content by political enemies when it launches, which is a legitimate concern and something that could scare away earnest users if it’s not dealt with expeditiously. But the long-term problem of how to moderate content on a site that’s supposed to be a free-speech alternative to the oppressive orthodoxy of Big Tech will persist.
The reason his comments are getting attention today is, of course, because content moderation on tech sites has been a bugaboo for MAGA over the past five years. Aren’t Trump, Nunes, and the rest of the base opposed to Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from liability for user comments? Populists want that protection stripped, believing that it encourages companies to engage in ideological censorship with impunity. Platforms should be unmoderated, full free-speech zones. Fox Business asked Nunes about that, and what do you know: He’s okay with Section 230. For now.
“It is the law of the land,” Nunes said. “Clearly, in the past, I’d express my frustration with it—mainly, at what point does a website or a tech company become a publisher?”
Nunes criticized big tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram, saying that they “have become editors,” and also criticized them for “selectively enforcing their terms of service.”
“The bottom line is that any changes that would be made to Section 230 in the future, we’re not at all worried about because we’re not going to be in that kind of business,” Nunes said.
I don’t know what he means by “we’re not going be in that kind of business.” If you’re hosting user-generated content, you’re in “that kind of business.” If Section 230 gets nukes and platforms become liable for what their users say, a site that caters partly to ideological radicals will be at dire risk of ending up on the hook in a lawsuit for libel posted by one of its loose-cannon members. Trump himself strayed close to the line of defamation at times in his tweets as president, like when he insinuated that Joe Scarborough may have murdered one of his congressional interns.
In fact, if Section 230 were repealed, TRUTH Social might end up as a leading example of what supporters of the law have warned about all along. Platforms will censor more content once they’re responsible for their users’ thoughts, not less. And inasmuch as any platform decides to eschew all content moderation in the name of not being deemed a “publisher,” TRUTH Social’s “family-friendly” pretenses wouldn’t last an hour. The site would be awash in ugliness, both from trolls and from sincere participants, once it’s “anything goes” on posting.
Here’s a few minutes of Nunes chatting about his new venture.