When Donald Trump was banned from Twitter in January 2021, it was obvious that he would have to find somewhere else to post. His own platform, Truth Social, was still a distant dream, so he had to choose one of the “alt-tech” platforms hosting professed free-speech absolutists, vaccine skeptics, Hunter Biden obsessives, and MAGA shitposters. He could have gone to Parler, where much of the pregaming for the January 6 riot took place, or Gab, where an account had long been held for him. But that June, he chose Rumble, a Toronto-based YouTube alternative that his son Don Jr. had been dabbling in for months. Founded in 2013, Rumble originally differentiated itself by providing more options for users looking to earn money from their videos—but now it’s “the right-wing’s go-to video site,” per The New York Times.
Other alt-tech CEOs were envious and didn’t hide it. John Matze, the former CEO of the Twitter alternative Parler, posted sarcastically about Rumble’s reliance on Google Ads, questioning the site’s anti–Big Tech bona fides. Andrew Torba, the founder of the ludicrously unmoderated Gab, ribbed Rumble for prohibiting anti-Semitism. (His site does not.) But Trump’s choice made sense: There are far more people on Rumble than on any other platform in the alt-tech ecosystem. In a recent press release, the company claimed that it had reached 78 million monthly average users in August, with 63 million of these being in the U.S. and Canada. And according to data from Similarweb, Rumble now sees more than 10 times the traffic of Trump’s Truth Social and close to 100 times the traffic of Parler.
Weirdly, though, Rumble is often overlooked by the mainstream. It was largely absent from the recent discourse about Kanye West’s supposed plans to buy Parler, and it was barely mentioned in a recent Times story about disinformation percolating on alt-tech sites. A Pew Research Center study from earlier this month found that more Americans have heard of Truth Social and Parler than of Rumble. This may be for any number of reasons—video sites are more challenging for journalists to pore over than text-based ones, YouTube is not the subject of quite as many accusations of anti-conservative bias as Facebook or Twitter are (making a YouTube alternative inherently less buzzy), Rumble has not positioned itself as a player in the culture wars until quite recently. (In 2020, its CEO, Chris Pavlovski, described his site to BuzzFeed News as “the clean YouTube competitor” and a place for people to “feel safe.”) [Continue reading…]