Kara Swisher: “Trump to Twitter: I Can’t Make You Love Me”

From a New York Times opinion piece by Kara Swisher headlined “Trump to Twitter: I Can’t Make You Love Me”:

Since he was tossed by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, a part of Google, in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Donald Trump has had such a tough time.

He endeavored an antiquated blog/press release dumping ground on his website called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” that pretty much screamed Luddite. That lasted less than a month and was closed in June, presumably owing to anemic traffic and being a persistent embarrassment.

He is also trying to sue his way back onto the platforms that dumped him, claiming that they violated his First Amendment right by suspending him.

Earlier this month, Trump took a separate legal shot at Twitter, where he had 88 million followers before he was shown the door. “Plaintiff Donald J. Trump respectfully moves for a preliminary injunction directing, inter alia, Defendant Twitter, Inc. and all persons acting in concert with Defendant, to reinstate Plaintiff’s access to Defendant’s social media platform(s),” he demanded in a filing.

Alas, no amount of covfefe is going to get him back in Twitter’s arms.

And so, since he can’t beat or join them, Trump is now trying to go it alone with his own media company. He flirted with getting a series of big money and stock offers from existing right-leaning platforms such as Gab, Parler and Gettr, according to sources. Instead, the man who never met a letter he did not capitalize has decided to utilize an increasingly problematic financial tool called a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, to finance his venture….

Since then, the track record for SPACs, which are often used by tech start-ups, has been mixed, as too many have emerged — 600 went public in the last year, raising $200 billion. As The Times noted in late August: “Most of Wall Street [had once] considered these financial vehicles tainted, a last resort for desperate dealmakers who couldn’t find other ways to raise funds … but the big names, star power and seemingly easy money that threw SPACs into such vogue last year only gave the deals a temporary air of legitimacy. Recently, the malodorous whiff that once trailed SPACs has re-emerged, raising doubts about their longevity.”

It is into this haze that Trump’s SPAC arrives. The plan is to use an existing SPAC called the Digital World Acquisition Corp., which will be merging with a new media firm called Trump Media & Technology Group. That, in turn, will launch a social network called Truth Social, which is essentially a Twitter clone, with “truths” instead of tweets and “re-truths” to mimic retweets. Because if you say it’s the truth and not a lie, then of course we believe you.

In a press release, DWAC valued Trump’s company at $875 million, which is, well, speculative. Even so, since the hookup with Trump was announced, the DWAC stock has been on an explosive ride upward. This means that Trump will likely have access to vast sums of cash since he has so many devoted fans who will likely keep the stock aloft. If you already have a MAGA hat, why not buy a share of Trump himself?…

As if it needs to be said, but I shall: Buyer beware. While Trump’s Twitter-addicted son, Donald J. Trump Jr., touted Truth Social on Fox News and said it would be up and running by early next year, the service already looks ill on arrival from a tech perspective. Hackers compromised the “donaldjtrump” handle on the beta site and the ability to sign up was halted temporarily.

Meanwhile, its terms of service are a riot, so to speak. They include a ban on any content that would “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site” and “excessive use of capital letters.”

It appears as if tech disparager Trump is a closet Silicon Valley tech bro. His company is hiding behind the same skirt that they all do; it’s using Section 230, the law that gives tech platforms broad immunity, as a shield. Of course, Trump used to be a critic of the rule, and issued an ill-conceived executive order when he was president to try to overturn it. And yet Truth Social notes that it is “not responsible for … any Third-Party Content posted on, available through, or installed from the Site, including [its] content, accuracy, offensiveness, opinions [or] reliability.”

This all might be rather fun to watch, given Trump’s long record of start-up failures, bankruptcies and problematic business dealings, especially with such a colossal stated ambition. The 22-page pitch deck for the media company that will house Truth Social grandly noted that there is a “market opportunity to disrupt big tech.”

According to the outline of its vision, “In the year 2021, the media pendulum has swung dangerously far to the left. TMTG intends to even the playing field.” It also says, “To counter this liberal bias and dangerous exercise of tech monopoly censorship, Donald J. Trump and TMTG intend to create a media and technology company rooted in social media, digital streaming, information technology infrastructure, and more.”

While I applaud all efforts to be innovative, the company is claiming it can disrupt in three huge spaces: social (disrupting Facebook and Twitter), media (disrupting Disney, Netflix, CNN and iHeartRadio) and, completely implausibly, cloud and payments (disrupting Stripe, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure).

Shockeroo, the company’s pitch is heavy with grievance and light on specifics and tech chops. It also comes at a time when there are many other efforts in the same right-leaning space already. All of them, of course, would have loved to get Trump on board, as Jason Miller, his former senior adviser and the C.E.O. of Gettr, noted to me in a “Sway” podcast earlier this year….

“President Trump has always been a great deal-maker, but we just couldn’t come to terms on a deal,” Miller wrote. Quite cordial, given how reduced his prospects are without Trump on board.

In tech, by the way, that’s called a pivot.

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