Where to go these days in social media when you want to MAGA and shake off Big Tech’s shackling of free speech on woke corporate giants such as Facebook and Twitter? You have a few choices, including one just announced by Donald Trump, TRUTH Social, which is set to launch in 2022. In addition to Parler, an app favored by Dan Bongino, a prominent Trump supporter, TRUTH Social will compete with GETTR, which is run by Trump’s ex-advisor Jason Miller, who left his unofficial job with the Trump Organization to run the fledgling Twitter clone.

The OG Twitter alternative is Gab. Billed as a haven for “free speech” when it rolled out in June 2017, Gab quickly garnered a reputation as a cesspool of antisemitism and a haven for alt-right conspiracy theorists with Pepe the Frog profile photos. Not much has changed in four years, judging from what I saw on a recent inspection. It’s difficult to take Gab’s “free speech” protestations seriously when one of the first items that comes into view is a “trending” story titled “If The Jews Disappeared From The Earth,” pulled from the website of the National Vanguard, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi organization. Gab’s CEO, Andrew Torba, has nothing but nice things to say about alt-right creeps such as Nick Fuentes and Daryush Valizadeh (aka Roosh V). Torba’s last act before he recently disabled Gab’s official Twitter account was to post a series of antisemitic tweets.

So you could say there’s a gap in the market. On July 1, GETTR, which had been available to download from Apple and Google since June, announced that it would officially launch on the July 4 holiday. At first, most analysts thought GETTR was Donald Trump’s social media alternative to Twitter. Trump, after all, remains highly popular among Republicans, but he had no social media home after getting booted from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram following the events of January 6 and his second impeachment. And GETTR (the name is based roughly on “getting together”) had also recruited Tim Murtaugh, the former Trump campaign spokesman, as an advisor.

“Team Trump quietly launches new social media platform,” blared a Politico headline. The big question was, would The Don affix his name to GETTR as he does with properties? That bubble burst only hours later. “News: Trump isn’t joining Jason Miller’s new social media platform, Gettr — won’t have any financial stake or participation, I’m told,” the Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs tweeted. “Apparently the ex-president still has plans for a separate platform. Unclear what exactly.”

For a site that wanted to be different, it’s unclear why GETTR allowed people to import their tweets and, in some cases, their followers from Twitter. For example, Sean Parnell, a combat veteran and candidate for the US Senate in Pennsylvania, joined the platform on July 1. Before the day was out, his GETTR follower count mirrored what he had on Twitter: 175,000. The same happened with Murtaugh and his follower count of 220,000. Jason Miller said he wanted users to move away from Twitter and go to GETTR. Still, to do that with any credibility means to do it organically — from the ground up.

It was not an auspicious debut. On July 4, someone hacked GETTR, changing the profile descriptions of several high-profile accounts, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and ex-secretary of state Mike Pompeo. The hacker signed his handiwork “@JubaBaghdad was here :0, ^^free palestine^^.”

The hacker who calls himself @JubaBaghdad did this more to demonstrate GETTR’s security flaws. He makes his living by revealing “exploits” within computer code. When he alerts companies to vulnerabilities within their applications, he usually earns a financial reward. He told Business Insider that though GETTR managed to fix the vulnerability he exploited, it had only taken him minutes to access user accounts and scrape data from them, including email addresses and birthdates. Less technically-minded users also flooded GETTR with pornographic images and GIFs.

Miller took it all in stride and managed to boast about it. “You know you’re shaking things up when they come after you,” he told Business Insider. “The problem was detected and sealed in a matter of minutes, and all the intruder was able to accomplish was to change a few user names. The situation has been rectified and we’ve already had more than half a million users sign up for our exciting new platform!”

It isn’t surprising the hacks happened. One developer I spoke to said, “An application such as GETTR should at least have two-factor authentication.” It doesn’t, except for one instance during the initial sign-up when I had to confirm my identity with a code sent to my email address. That was on the web. When I installed the app on my phone, it only required the registered email address and password — something else for which it has no discernible policy. Before I changed my password, it would have allowed me to use “123456” or “password.”

GETTR is privately held. According to Miller, the company received backing from a “consortium of international investors.” One of those investments came from the Guo Family Foundation, owned by Guo Wengui, who also goes by Miles Kwok. Guo is an exiled Chinese billionaire. He fled to the US after the Chinese government accused him of corruption. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because Guo is the owner of the Lady May, the yacht on which federal authorities arrested Steve Bannon on charges related to defrauding the We Build The Wall nonprofit organization. Guo claims the charges were fabricated and part of a CCP plot to get at Bannon. Miller says Guo didn’t invest money directly and has no official authority within GETTR.

The GETTR interface is nearly identical to Twitter. You post instead of tweet. You repost instead of retweet, with the option to quote post. Users can upload media in the form of photos and videos up to three minutes in length. Like Twitter, there is an option to use GIFs. Unlike Twitter, however, since the site is rated “M” for Mature, meaning seventeen and older, there are more risqué GIFs available for use. In addition, GETTR allows for the use of a mature 777 characters, in contrast with Twitter’s juvenile 280.

When I explored GETTR’s site (and the companion iOS app) and looked at the people and their posts, I thought to myself, “I’m not sure why I’m here. Why am I doing this?” Many high-follower presences on GETTR also have a similarly sized Twitter presence. The problem is they’re posting the same content on both platforms — word for word.

Representative Elise Stefanik has GETTR and Twitter accounts. Recently, she posted “I’m getting more and more messages about people being unfollowed from my Twitter account. Big tech won’t stop their attacks on MILLIONS of patriots! Join me on Telegram: You’ll get all my updates direct to your phone! No censorship!” Stefanik is using GETTR to implore her Twitter followers to use the messaging app Telegram so they can get her “updates” on their phones.

GETTR’s big hitters tend to repeat what they post on Twitter for an audience that is far less engaged. For example, Jack Posobiec, the right-wing “star” who made his bones promulgating Seth Rich and Pizzagate conspiracies, and playing footsie with white nationalists such as Richard Spencer, boasts 1.4 million followers on both Twitter and GETTR. On November 1, Posobiec tweeted about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. At the time of this writing, the tweet had nearly 4,000 retweets, 200 replies and almost 20,000 likes. On GETTR, the same post had seventy-nine reposts, sixteen replies and 400 likes.

Kayleigh McEnany, Donald Trump’s former press secretary, has over two million followers on GETTR. She follows no one and hasn’t posted since August. This is another not uncommon pattern. The biggest GETTR accounts follow very few people and don’t engage with others. Those who engage the most have small follower counts and post frequently on the need to jail Anthony Fauci for “crimes against humanity.” Which brings me back to “What’s the point?”

“We’re living in a period of the worst political censorship in American history,” Jason Miller told Maria Bartiromo when he appeared on her Fox Business show on November 1. Miller noted that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are not elected, and he questioned why they have the authority to “tell us what our free speech rights are.”

But do Zuckerberg and Dorsey really define Miller’s right to free speech? It is reasonable to question the integrity of those responsible for handling what amounts to “hate speech” and “misinformation.” It is reasonable to accuse them of acting irrationally, unfairly or, hell, with rank partisanship. But to equate Jack Dorsey to the government is nonsensical. The argument isn’t meant to win converts from other platforms: it’s meant to harden the social-media bubble into a defensive shell.

Still, Jason Miller is not concerned with the competition. He welcomes it. When I asked how GETTR could stand apart, he replied, “Contrary to predictions from the naysayers, a rising tide lifts all boats and it’s clear that the more competition there is in the social media market, the better it is for GETTR. We are the only real destination for people who want to be able to express their opinions without fear of being canceled or censored. The big takeaway here is that Facebook and Twitter are dying platforms and people are seeking out alternatives.”

A new social media platform should offer people an experience they cannot find elsewhere. This is why some people favor Twitter over Facebook, or TikTok over Instagram, or Snapchat over Twitter. It’s not clear that GETTR can find long-term success if its intent is to create an ideological echo chamber rather than a community. When TRUTH Social launches in 2022, it is bound to attract a large audience, including recruits from Twitter, Parler and GETTR. After all, Donald Trump will be there. When that happens, GETTR will have to answer an existential question. Without Trump, what does a platform that is essentially a clone of Twitter have to offer?

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s December 2021 World edition.