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Pivoting is failure
Today's digest: Trump's Twitter, CFPB, and the joys of shark tracking
Former President Donald Trump says he’s launching a new social network called TRUTH Social (capitalization in the original).
Could it work? Sure. All things are possible in the United States of America. And on raw demographics, there’s enough of a population sympathetic to Trump to sustain a network like that.
But the odds do not seem very good. The platform’s design is prescriptive, its whole raison d'etre to “stand up to the tyranny of big tech.” Posts are called “truths.” The challenge: people don’t take to being dictated to, this tool exists to do X. It’s perhaps the lesson of Brigade, the app meant to be a forum for people to discuss politics in a rational and not super partisan way. Not a Brigade user? That might be because it is no more. Telling people “please use this app to do politics”? Nope. Doesn’t seem to work. (The App Store has pre-launch screen shots of TRUTH Social if you’re curious.)
Trump may well have had better luck simply opening a neutral platform, seeding it to attract his natural audience, and letting them run with it. Or eventually pulling an Instagram and pivoting to whatever the users want it to be. That’s what any other entrepreneur would do. But success for success’s sake isn’t the point here. It’s to use the platform as a partisan organ. For Trump, pivoting is failure.
Of course, predicting what’s going to happen in response to something Trump does is, as it ever has been, a fool’s game. But this doesn’t give the signs of a runaway hit.
All that said, a Trump media network that creates properties to serve his audience — you can see that having legs.
The Federal Communications Commission is still without a permanent chair.
—Commissions here in D.C. are funny things — generally three, four, five big personalities, all trying to set themselves up for maximum impact without looking like they’re trying to hard — but at some point things are going to get awkward for Biden, and that day’s fast approaching.
Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Maria Ressa — a journalist! — talks about why she sees social media as an “atom bomb.” (Podcast, 42 minutes.)
Twitter says its new in-house research finds that its algorithm amplifies content from the political right, but isn’t sure why.
—Did you notice that Twitter is publishing its findings rather than, you know, having an employee leak them? Oh, Twitter hadn’t thought of that. Interesting of you to pick up on it.
Congress broadens the aperture to (finally?) see Snap and TikTok. Yes yes, of course there is market size, user base, etc. But there’s no discounting that the Hill goes after what’s right in front of it. (Thus the “‘60 Minutes’ effect” — the Monday after a juicy episode, expect at least a few senators to fire off letters detailing their outrage and demanding answers.)
Just a week into his tenure and fresh off the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Board director Rohit Chopra let it be known the agency has launched an investigation into Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Square, and Alipay, among others, over “personal payments data.”
—Personal payments data? That’s the run-off from all the digital pay-for-this systems that many of us ran to during the pandemic, part of the great shift away from cash given a kick in the pants by COVID-19. More details from CFPB here.
—Substance aside, Chopra’s quick moves at CFPB kinda marks the next phrase of progressive economic policy folks’ strategic plan: credential-up folks with their view of the world and spread them into the nooks and crannies of official Washington, and out into the states, for that matter.
JUST FOR FUN
The New York Times Magazine has a deep dive into Cape Cod’s newly active — and increasingly tracked — white shark population. It’s hard not to obsess; Sharktivity is the one app whose alerts I open immediately on arrival.