How Will Kanye, Elon, and Trump’s Social Media Moves Shake Out?

Elon Musk, who appears to be pushing ahead with his precarious deal to buy Twitter appeared to bask in the prospect of a changing social media landscape, with himself, donald trump, and KanyeWest at the helm. On Tuesday he shared a meme of their heads superimposed on the three musketeers: “Looking back it was inevitable,” he captioned the now-deleted image. And in a now-deleted tweet Monday, Musk shared a meme showing him and West using Twitter and Parler to join forces: “Fun times ahead!”

West, a star rapper, producer and fashion mogul now known as Ye, said Monday that he plans to buy Parler, the minor Rebekah Mercer— funded social media network that started in 2018 as a safe haven for the Trump wing of the Republican Party and has grown into an online home for anti-government militias, QAnon fanatics and the like. The announcement came days after West himself was temporarily banned from Twitter over a series of anti-Semitic remarks. The news, while surprising, can be rationalized; Georg Bauer, the CEO of Parler’s parent company, is married to a right-wing influencer candace owens, who has been by West’s side throughout his years of development into a conservative champion. Owens always seems to pop up whenever West stirs up controversy. (Like earlier this month, when the two posed in “White Lives Matter” t-shirts during Paris Fashion Week, or when Owens defended West and said he was going “Death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” among other things.)

What is less clear, however, is what will become of West’s ownership of Parler. According to traffic monitoring site Similarweb, Parler saw around 1.3 million visits in August, a tiny amount of traffic even in the already niche world of conservative social platforms. as noted by tech blogger Jay McKenzie. For comparison, data accumulated by Similiarweb showed that Trump’s Truth Social – the Twitter alternative he founded after being banned from Twitter and Facebook – garnered up to 9 million visits in the same month, and Gab, perhaps the most extreme Twitter alternative, garnered 12 in that span ,8 million. On Parler, even the potential owner of the platform has only amassed around 18,000 followers despite being an A-list star. (West has 31.5 million followers on Twitter.)

Additionally, Parler would have seen Musk’s meme about the trio taking the internet by storm if the Tesla and SpaceX CEO honors the Twitter deal and its promises to lift some of the content restrictions that prompted conservatives to build their own platforms, done a right to exist? Surely West would find his way back to Twitter if his old friend were running things.

The reasons behind both Musk and Trump’s social media investments seem clear: both rely heavily on their online personas to boost their standing as celebrities. Musk’s tweets have even impacted the stock market and are instrumental in building the Tesla brand. Likewise, Trump needs a social network to rebuild the online following that helped him get into the White House in 2016.

Perhaps a prominent face like West can reverse the Parler operation, but it seems far more likely that he’ll be stuck with a dud product — one that at least lets him scream into the online void without fear of reprisals. However, the proposed acquisition has apparently strengthened West’s friendship with Trump. Posting Parler as a safe place for those who have been “bullied by the Thought Police,” the rapper told Bloomberg News on Monday that he plans to have dinner with the former president to ask him to join the platform, although it is an obvious competitor to Truth Social. While conservative platforms only appeal to a small corner of the market — a corner that’s far more crowded than it was a few years ago — a new study from Pew Research found that about 15% of accounts on alternative social media sites like Gettr, Telegram and Truth Social joined these networks after being suspended, banned or protested by one of the mainstream platforms. So there’s a notable number of social media exiles who rely on Parler and Truth Social for post correction – at least until the Musk Revolution hits Twitter. How Will Kanye, Elon, and Trump’s Social Media Moves Shake Out?

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