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Elon Musk, Truth Social chief Devin Nunes agree on something: Twitter is in trouble

As attacks ramp up on Trump social platform, signs of its success are undercutting critics.

Published: April 10, 2022 11:23am

Updated: April 11, 2022 9:13am

When former congressman and current Trump Media CEO Devin Nunes showed up on Fox Business last week to discuss his company's new Truth Social platform, he was confronted by a market analyst who predicted doom and failure.

"In tech you have to move fast, break things and build it, right? You guys are moving slow, there is no visibility on when it going to get built,” declared disruptive tech analyst Lou Basenese, who previously has called the Truth Social platform "dead on arrival" and questioned why there remains a large backlog of customers seeking to get on the social app.

Basenese's attacks mirror those in several mainstream media outlets in recent weeks. But his broadside missed an obvious contradiction sitting right on set with him.

Basenese and Nunes were appearing together Friday on a show hosted by anchor Maria Bartiromo, a frequent user of Instagram, where she has 239,000 followers along with about 1 million on Twitter after years of posting. 

On Truth Social, Bartiromo has amassed 248,000 followers in less than two months, already eclipsing her Instagram audience.

And Bartiromo got far more engagement on Truth Social than on Twitter when she shared the Nunes exchange on both platforms: She got fewer than 500 likes and shares on Twitter and nearly 5,000 likes and re-truths on Truth.

The anecdote, and many others like it, are a warning sign to those eager to prematurely predict the demise of Truth. 

Yes, Nunes and his team are moving slower than tech analysts want. But just three months on the job, Nunes has been clear he prefers to avoid the boom-to-bust phenomenon of Big Tech startups in favor of building a highly engaged audience more slowly as the technology grows. 

"If you look at Truth Social, where we continue to grow every single day, even though we're just barely in the testing phase, we continue to prove out the process focus on our quality and reliability," Nunes told Just the News last week. 

"Truth social is already getting massive engagement by the users that we've let on so far," he added.

In other words, he prefers the tortoise to the hare approach.

A Just the News survey of major conservative influencers found their content on Truth Social far outperformed their engagement on Twitter, including the Just the News site.

"The traffic to the site and to the show is off the chart," radio host Dan Bongino recently told Just the News, directly challenging reports the platform is a failure. "The engagement is extraordinary right now."

Nunes also is banking on another factor: Large numbers of Americans with Twitter accounts have stopped using them because of their frustration with censorship and liberal domination of conversations on the platform, and a lot of traffic is being generated by "bots" rather than real people.

"As we bring new users on ... we see people who have been banned from Twitter for life," Nunes explained. "So you know, we're going to be the home for all of those people.

"I don't foresee much changing at Twitter, it's probably going to be nice window dressing, for ... kind of these social media, tech tyrants, these companies. But I just don't see big changes coming," he said.

Elon Musk, who stirred worldwide intrigue a week ago when he revealed he had bought a nearly 10% interest in Twitter and secured a board seat, found agreement with Nunes over the weekend.

He posted a list of the top 10 accounts on Twitter and decried their lack of engagement. "Most of these 'top' accounts tweet rarely and post very little content," Musk wrote in a tweet Saturday. "Is Twitter dying?"

After Musk's revelation of a large ownership stake, Twitter made clear it has no intention of restoring Donald Trump's account, something that could pose a threat to Truth Social's nascent market. Musk followed up with a string of tweets critical of Twitter management.

"Delete the w in Twitter?" he asked at one point Saturday night.

"Convert Twitter SF HQ to homeless shelter since no one shows up anyway?" he added in another while suggesting a monthly subscription fee for Twitter users could solve its problems with bots.

Twitter said Sunday that Musk had declined a seat on the social media platform's board of directors, despite now being its largest shareholder.

Wherever Musk ends up with Twitter, Truth Social is executing a long game focused on quality engagement and technical reliability, unwilling to bend to the tech investors' yen for speed.

"We want to see free speech in this country," Nunes told Bartiromo on Friday. "We have a large market, it is out there for the taking, and we continue to take it."

And that is going to take time.