After Jan. 6, members of the MAGA community have fled traditional social media sites for right-wing alternatives. However, as the Washington Post reported Thursday, sites like Telegram may have seen a big surge after Jan. 6 but it's barely grown since.
Social media users at the big sites might be happy about the shift of the far-right away from trolling those who critique or mock former President Donald Trump. However, the far-right is now quietly scheming behind closed doors without much observation from their opposition.
The Post analysis also showed that the influx to the new platforms may have shown an early surge but it either stopped at the right-wing world or the right-wing world is running off any other potential user base.
The report cited Darren Linvill, a researcher at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub, who explained that because the new sites are focusing on "right-wing rabble-rousers" they've developed a brand that they're the gathering spot for the QAnon fringe, anti-vaxxers and others in the conservative world.
"So much of social media, he added, isn’t political at all: The biggest platforms are loaded with jokes, pop culture, cute photos and other distractions that make up most people’s daily media appetites," said the Post.
Starting a social media site means building “multiple perspectives so you can have lots of different conversations happening to bring in lots of different kinds of people,” Linvill said. “Right-wing platforms are one-trick ponies. They’re only going to, by their nature, appeal to the type of person they are branded to appeal to, and there’s only so many people in that world.”
Meanwhile, the conservative personalities that are using Facebook and Twitter to promote themselves are seeing their audiences dwindle. The community's tendency toward conspiracy theories then prompts allegations that they're being censored.
"The data helps strengthen the case for supporters of 'deplatforming,' who argue that banning the accounts of people known for distributing lies can have a powerful impact on their ability to win mainstream attention or political influence," said the Post.
Meanwhile, sites like Gab, Gettr, Rumble, and Trump's new site aren't likely to grow beyond their existing communities of pro-Trump users. After the Trump ban, they grew 80 percent.
The Post analysis reviewed the audience data for 47 well-known right-wing influencers who went to the new sites last year and found that beyond the first influx, they've barely grown and in some cases dropped.
"The influencers previously had seen steady growth on Twitter and other big platforms that distributed their messages to a broad audience. But after their jump to the niche sites, the analysis indicates, they largely failed to continue attracting new followers who weren’t already engaged fans," the analysis said.
Their largest gains came with outrage from people like Trump or when Twitter booted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) last month when she wouldn't stop tweeting COVID conspiracies, which is against the rules of Twitter.
Telegram announced it has more than 500 million active users worldwide every month, half of which joined in the past two years. But they existed long before Jan. 6 and the platform wasn't built for the purpose of giving the right-wing a place to play.
That said, those right-wing personalities like Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, OAN, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mike Lindell all saw a huge influx of users when they joined Telegram. Since then, not as much.
The report said that right-Twitter copies like Gab and Gettr and the YouTube twin Rumble have focused on conservative audiences, thus they've struggled to keep growth going for their major users.
"On Gab, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who joined Gab in 2016 and was banned from mainstream sites in 2018, went from gaining roughly 25,000 followers a month in the first quarter of 2021 to adding about 1,000 followers a month for the rest of the year," said the Post.
The analysis also showed that on Rumble, OAN ballooned to 750,000 subscribers after Trump was banned from social media. Since then, however, they've only made it to 900,000.
Driving the far right into their silos might be a relief to the rest of the non-right wing world, but the Post explained that it can make things worse by not exposing them to any other thoughts or ideas. It can also carry people from casual Trump support to becoming fully radicalized.
"A team of researchers last year who analyzed data from r/The_Donald, a pro-Trump forum banned by Reddit that launched its own stand-alone site, found that the spinoff had far fewer members but that the tone of discussions had become more hateful." said the report.