Former President Donald Trump’s new social-networking platform, Truth Social, launched this week.
Phil Napoli, professor of public policy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, discusses the potential performance and broader societal effects of the new social media platform. His comments below are available for use in your coverage.
“The key question raised by the launch of Truth Social is, how impactful can a social media platform be if its user base is, to some extent, politically homogeneous?” says Phil Napoli, professor of public policy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “One effect that we know social media platforms can have is that they can move people to more extreme positions on the political continuum — the radicalizing effect. So, Truth Social certainly has the potential to make Trump’s base of support more extreme than they currently are.”
“But the other important, and certainly less common, effect that social media can have is conversion – to change someone’s attitude, political affiliation, or candidate they support. This kind of effect is rare to begin with, and is obviously much less likely on a platform where virtually all of the users share the same general political orientation.”
“Perhaps because of this limitation, similarly oriented platforms such as Gab and Parler have relatively small user bases compared to the dominant social media platforms, and probably have relatively little potential for growth. And when it comes to social media, ‘network effects’ — the benefits of being part of a large network of users — are particularly important.”
“It would seem, then, that most social media users don’t want to just speak to the choir – they want to persuade, and if not persuade, at least argue. So, as a tool for sowing greater disinformation and extremism amongst a particular segment of the electorate, Truth Social has potential, assuming the developers can work out the much-publicized bugs in the platform.”
“Truth Social will also serve as a platform for the former president to disseminate the type of inflammatory statements that will reverberate through the media ecosystem and that will, as recent history tells us, probably generate far more coverage from the news media than they should.”
Philip Napoli, professor of public policy, researches media institutions, media regulation and policy, such as net neutrality. He has testified on these topics to the U.S. Senate, the FCC and the FTC. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Social Media and the Public Interest: Media Regulation in the Disinformation Age” (August 2019).
For additional comment, contact Phil Napoli at:
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