President Trump joining the video platform Rumble marked the beginning of his digital return after bans against his accounts have restricted his access on Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.
In joining Rumble, a YouTube rival, Mr. Trump is attempting to redefine his social media persona, from that of an outcast muzzled into silence by the tech giants to that of a defiant outsider challenging the status quo.
Followers should not expect to see pithy blog posts on Rumble like they would on Twitter. Instead, the user experience is more akin to YouTube, with short video clips and broadcasts. The first video from Mr. Trump‘s account featured a live broadcast of his Saturday rally in Ohio.
Rumble, buoyed by an influx of users and cash, particularly from conservatives, has mounted its own insurgent campaign against its much larger rival, Google.
Rumble has roughly 30 million monthly users and has grown its user base by 10% month over month, said Rumble founder Chris Pavlovski last month. That’s up from 800,000 monthly visits in August, per the Wall Street Journal.
Rumble has sued Google for antitrust violations in federal court and recently scored a large undisclosed investment from a group including billionaire Peter Thiel and conservative author J.D. Vance. Mr. Thiel, founder of PayPal and Facebook’s first outside investor, supported Mr. Trump‘s first presidential bid and Mr. Vance is considering running for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat from Ohio.
Rumble’s detractors say it does not share the ideological commitment to free speech that was the hallmark of social networks Parler and Gab that similarly sought to compete with established tech companies. Parler and Gab featured microblogging posts similar to Twitter that have attracted right-leaning audiences as fears grow of censorship by more prominent platforms.
Gab founder Andrew Torba criticized Rumble for allegedly changing its terms of service on the day Mr. Trump joined to include new policies about hate speech. John Matze, Parler’s fired former co-founder, piled on and questioned Rumble’s motivation for securing Mr. Trump‘s digital presence.
“I wonder how much equity or money Rumble had to give … The same Rumble that runs entirely on Google ads, Google analytics, etc … [that is] big tech,” said Mr. Matze in a post on Gab. “Not that I think Trump‘s brand is worth anything anymore.”
Before his exit at Parler, Mr. Matze spoke favorably about what Mr. Trump‘s joining Parler would mean for the upstart platform. Last June, he told The Washington Times his platform would likely have trouble scaling if Mr. Trump suddenly joined Parler.
Mr. Pavlovski did not respond to questions about Mr. Trump‘s addition and the criticism from Gab and Parler’s founders. Last month, Mr. Pavlovski said he was more interested in competing with large incumbent platforms than mixing things up in American politics.
Rumble‘s competitor YouTube also has not written off restoring Mr. Trump‘s access. Twitter has permanently banned Mr. Trump and Facebook has extended its ban until at least 2023, but YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March her platform would end the former president’s suspension after determining the risk of violence had ceased.
YouTube and Google did not answer requests for comment on Monday.