As Trump targets big tech, smaller new competitors promise more free speech than Twitter, Facebook

As Trump targets big tech, smaller new competitors promise more free speech than Twitter, Facebook

Last Updated:
June 1, 2020 - 11:44am

As President Trump seeks to remove special exemptions from liability for social media platforms exhibiting political bias, a raft of smaller competitors are rising, promising more freedom of speech than giants like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. A number of the new entrants in the market are particularly popular among conservative users, many of whom believe they are singled out for censorship by left-leaning tech companies.

CloutHub, which launched in April 2019, bills itself as a "next-generation social networking site." It operated as a beta platform until this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, when the company released its desktop version. CloutHub founder and CEO Jeff Brain told Just the News that the platform has grown mostly by word of mouth and support from its online influencers. 

"This week after Twitter took its action against President Trump, we have seen a significant surge in the rate of signups," Brain said. "But we noticed the censorship and people looking for alternative platforms weeks before during the Covid lockdowns, when YouTube was removing videos of people who criticized the World Health Organization, and Facebook was removing groups that opposed the stay at home orders."  

Brain told Just the News that CloutHub now has just over 100,000 members. He also said that his motivation for creating CloutHub was due to being shadowbanned on Twitter

"So I have first-hand experience with big-tech censorship," Brain said. "I felt it was un-American and that the people needed to have a platform where they can discuss issues without big-tech silencing our voices." 

President Trump recently signed an executive order calling for new regulations that will strip ideologically selective social media platforms of the legal liability shield they have enjoyed under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Section 230. Brain said it is now up to platforms to decide whether to remain neutral or forfeit their valuable exemptions from liability for user-generated content. Twitter has historically claimed to be a neutral platform but came under fire by Trump for making editorial decisions about some of the president's tweets.

In Trump's reading, Twitter has morphed from a neutral communications platform into one that is less like a phone company and more like an editorially selective legacy media outlet. Brain said that if it is determined that social media platforms are censoring content or removing users based on the user’s political, social or community opinions, then these firms should lose their CDA exemptions. 

"Except for that change we do not believe we need new legislation," Brain said. "We believe the best solution to big-tech censorship is to encourage new alternatives and create competition that responds to the needs and wishes of social media users. Government regulation of speech is a slippery slope towards greater censorship, not less." 

Brain is confident that CloutHub passes the neutrality test under Section 230. "Since we stand for free speech we are not concerned about the legal scrutiny standard that is being set," he said. "We don’t silence people based on their political beliefs. On CloutHub, people are free to talk about any side of an issue. There is no censorship of issues on CloutHub."

Brain said that in order to keep interaction "constructive" his firm published a list of about 1,000 words that are mostly racial slurs or graphic sexual terms which are prohibited on the platform.

"This is very transparent and applied equally to everyone," Brain said. "Our members actually like our clear and equally applied rules. It does keep our platform conversations productive and focused on issues." 

Deneen Borelli, an author, Fox News contributor and prominent African-American conservative activist, told Just the News that CloutHub reached out to her and her fellow activist husband, Tom, following her being fired by BlazeTV because of what she said was Facebook's suppression of her "Here's the Deal videos." 

She made the video below about the move: 


Borelli is now working as an executive advisor to CloutHub.

"I was really motivated to find a social media alternative that would not silence my voice," Borelli said. 

The platform Gab launched in 2017 and claimed to have nearly 1 million registered user accounts by July 2019.The site came under fire after the Pittsburgh Tree Of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018. Robert Gregory Bowers, the sole shooting suspect, had posted a message on Gab threatening an imminent intent to do harm prior to the shooting. Bowers had a history of making extreme, anti-Semitic postings on Gab, prompting backlash from hosting providers, which resulted in Gab briefly going offline. Gab eventually found a new host and went back online.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Gab co-founder and CEO Andrew Torba cited "the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly" and an anti-conservative bias on Facebook as his motivation for creating Gab.

Since Trump's battles with Twitter, Gab has been saving archives of all of the president's Tweets and Retweets. 

"Mr. President Twitter is suspending users who you repost. We are backing up all of your tweets uncensored," the Gab Twitter account posted."

Tweet URL

Another social networking platform popular with conservatives is Parler. Launched in August 2018, Parler bills itself as "a non-biased free speech driven entity" with the goal of offering "a platform that protects user’s rights, supports publishers and builds online communities." 

"We are not regulators. We are not governors. We are a community," Parler's About page states. "Parler accepts your right to express your thoughts, opinions and ideals online. Just like in society, Parler interactions are subject to guidelines; and when you respect them, you are free to participate wholly."

Starting in December 2018, Parler rose in popularity after prominent conservatives like Brad Parscale, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and activist Candace Owens joined Parler and promoted it to their followers. Parler also includes a social news component, where users can engage with each other around news content.

"Parler aims to empower users to control their social experience," Parler's site states. "Users can be responsible to engage content as they see fit. Parler allows users to connect with peers, read news, share content and discuss opinions. Digital publishers, influencers, writers, politicians and citizens interact as an online community."

Launched in September 2016, the tech startup Codias bills itself as "the conservative social network" that allows users to "share conservative views without fear of censorship."

"We exist to advance the conservative movement," Codias' homepage currently states. "We believe political states exist to secure man’s natural and unalienable rights. We operate independently from the Republican Party, any candidate, or any special interest."

Not bashful it its marketing, the Texas-based service Codias early on promised a “revolution in your hands.” “Tired of losing the culture?” the Codias Web site asked upon launch, “We equip conservatives for modern political warfare.”

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