Just weeks after its launch, the pro-Trump social network GETTR has been inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by Islamic State supporters. The social network, which was launched a month ago by members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, contains a plethora of jihadi-related content, including graphic videos of beheadings, viral memes that promote violence against the West, and even memes of a militant executing Trump in an orange jumpsuit similar to those used in Guantanamo Bay.
As it attempts to establish itself as a free speech platform, the rapid proliferation of such material puts GETTR in the awkward position of providing a safe haven for jihadi extremists online.
It highlights the difficulties Trump and his supporters are facing in the aftermath of his ban from mainstream social media platforms following the Capitol Hill riots on January 6.
Trump has sought alternative ways to engage with his base online in the months since he was kicked off Twitter and suspended from Facebook. While Trump’s supporters fled to other online venues, such as the social network Parler, where they could express themselves without fear of repercussions, Trump’s own effort to build an internet bullhorn has stalled.
In May, he launched a blog titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” but it was quickly taken down due to widespread ridicule and low readership. Given the names behind it, GETTR has so far been the most high-profile pro-Trump platform launch. Jason Miller, a former Trump spokesperson, serves as CEO, and Miles Guo, a business partner of former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, contributes to the site’s funding. Trump is not directly involved in the operation, and he has not signed up for the platform. The social network has promoted a “free speech” policy that, according to the company, would allow users to fully express themselves without being censored by tech behemoths.
However, according to extremism experts, this MAGA exodus to fringe social networks that promote free speech has piqued the interest of supporters of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups.
These terrorist communities have also been removed in large numbers from the largest social networks, which have frequently promoted their crackdown on Islamic extremists as an example of how tech companies are policing their global platforms for harmful content.
In response, supporters of the Islamic State have quickly shifted gears, looking for new online spaces to spread their hateful material and piggybacking on tactics and platforms pioneered in the United States.
Days after the launch of GETTR on July 1, supporters of the Islamic State began urging their followers on other social networks to join the pro-Trump network, in part to take the jihadi fight directly to MAGA nation.
Some of the jihadi posts from early July were eventually removed from GETTR, demonstrating that the pro-Trump platform had taken some steps to remove the harmful material.
Larger platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, now collaborate with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an industry-funded nonprofit that shares terrorist content between companies through a database of extremist material accessible to its members, so that the material can be removed as soon as possible.
The platform’s terms of service detail how offensive or illegal content, including terrorism-related content, may be removed from GETTR. A clause states that “this may include content identified as personal bullying, sexual abuse of a child, attacks on any religion or race, or content containing video or depictions of beheading.”
Though the site has had notoriously bad luck in moderating users — in its early days, it was flooded with a wide range of pornography — Miller has drawn the line at doxxing, sharing other people’s addresses, and advocating physical harm. GETTR’s CEO has praised the site’s content moderation policy, which is primarily based on a combination of human monitoring and algorithms, in interviews.
Nonetheless, the fact that such jihadi material was easily accessible on the social network, as well as GETTR’s failure to crack down on such extremism, highlighted the difficulties that the company faces in balancing its free speech ethos with growing pressure to prevent terrorist-related material from finding an audience online.
Jihadi groups are rapidly evolving their tactics to stay one step ahead of online removals in their ongoing cat-and-mouse game with Western national security agencies and Silicon Valley platforms.