Conservatives find a new home on Rumble, a social media site establishing a footprint in Sarasota


The Sarasota County Commission voted in October to award an $825,000 incentive grant to the conservative-leaning online media platform Rumble.

The county’s Economic Development Corporation grant would be used by the company to establish its US headquarters in Longboat Key.

Since then, a vocal group of residents have asked the commission to cancel the subsidy, mainly because the platform broadcasts RT, Russia’s state news channel.

Earlier this week, Rumble announced that its user base hit a new all-time high of 41 million monthly users in the first quarter of 2022, including 44.3 million in March.

It comes as millions of people continue to walk away from mainstream social media apps like Facebook and YouTube since the 2020 election.

WUSF’s Cathy Carter recently spoke with New York Times political reporter Jeremy Peters, who recently wrote about Rumble and its ambitions.

Jeremy, how did you come to report on Rumble?

I think a big question after Facebook, Google and many big social media platforms started kicking users out for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines and non-existent examples of voter fraud was, where were all these people going? We know they weren’t leaving. We knew they weren’t going to suddenly stop believing what they believed just because they didn’t have a voice through a place like Facebook. And the answer is that a lot of them were going to Rumble because it has a very loosely enforced speaking policy. Rumble was a place where they could pretty much say whatever they wanted where almost anything happened.

In this article, you report that Rumble has tens of millions of dollars in funding from entrepreneurs pretty much right?

Part of the reason Rumble has been able to attract investment from conservative players like Peter Thiel, who was a key supporter of President Trump’s first campaign, is that Rumble has stated its goal of creating , effectively, a whole new kind of internet. People who share opinions that would be scrutinized by content moderators and algorithms at big social media companies feel free to speak up and know they won’t be kicked out. And that’s attracting a lot of people, especially those who support President Trump and his false claims that the election was stolen from him in 2020.

And as you point out, Rumble now has 44 million monthly visitors, which is actually bigger than some other top conservative sites like Breitbart and Newsmax.

To give you an idea of ​​its size, it’s almost as big as Fox News Dot Com’s audience. So it’s significant and has grown at a fairly rapid rate over the last year. What Rumble doesn’t like to talk about is where this traffic growth is coming from. And in our reporting, we’ve shown that there’s a pretty direct, direct line between the kind of misinformation you’ve seen spread here by hosts like Dan Bongino and outlets like One America News, OAN, and their demise. -Facebook and YouTube platform and the growth that Rumble has seen. I mean, it’s been pretty explosive since the big tech and social media companies started their crackdown.

As you report, with this large audience to be had, some who study far-right content online say that if left unchecked, it could become a very powerful political weapon.

Well, I generally think of Democrats and even Republicans who think that this type of misinformation about the election, about Donald Trump, about COVID, that it’s going to proliferate unseen and they’ll be caught off guard if it happens. another type of January 6 uprising styles. Those kinds of platforms that are off the mainnet, so to speak; this has some pretty chilling implications.

And while Rumble has a smaller footprint than Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, their audiences are intensely engaged. And in many ways, as a former Republican congressman told you, this alternate universe has already blossomed. So what’s your main takeaway?

I would say this: this campaign from the right — although it’s not exclusively from the right, it’s mostly among people sympathetic to the former president — is that it’s bigger than Rumble. There are other social media networks like GETTR, which was started by a former aide to Trump. There’s President Trump’s own social network. These types of outfits are going to continue to grow and that’s because the people behind them really see a really big market. It’s very much an early stage project, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by the end of this year, it’s something that’s taken off in a much bigger way.

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