Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and aspiring tech mogul, says his social media platform failed to launch on Monday as planned following an apparent cyberattack. Lindell announced plans to launch the site, called “Frank,” after he was banned from Twitter in January for spreading election misinformation.
“FrankSpeech.com is having a massive attack against it currently,” he wrote on Telegram. Lindell earlier claimed that Frank would be able to handle over a billion users at launch, and that he had paid millions of dollars for cybersecurity protection in preparation to launch the site he described as an amalgamation of Twitter and YouTube. Meanwhile, others on Twitter speculate the service failed because of technical problems, a lack of preparation, and general ineptitude.
Whatever the cause of the technical problems, more details are sure to emerge. They just won’t be coming to light on Frank any time soon.
Hypocrisy — Like other alternative social networks, Frank has been pitched as a home for “free speech.” In other words, it’s intended as a service where users will be free to share false information without fear of being banned. “All these people that can’t say on their podcast the word ‘Dominion,’ or they can’t say ‘The vaccine is bad for you’... they’re going to be able to speak out and speak freely,” he said during a podcast interview with noted cretin and poster boy for the lunatic fringe, Steve Bannon.
Ironically enough, Lindell has contradicted his own claims, saying that certain types of content will be censored — including swear words, pornography, death threats, and any posts that “take God’s name in vain.” That means that Frank will be moderated, and subjectively based on what Lindell himself believes are acceptable forms of speech. We literally couldn’t make this stuff up.
A challenging business — It was expected that the launch of Frank would be a mess in the first place. Lindell’s business experience is in shilling pillows, a very different business than building a social media network. It’s not as easy as it looks — look no further than Parler and Gab as evidence of how hard it is to build legitimate alternatives to the incumbents, especially when your bread and butter users are the sorts of people who storm the Capitol or think vaccines include microchips.
These sites have gained traction among conservative politicians and their supporters, but have struggled to stay online as major service providers, from hosting companies to payment processors, cut them off for hosting extremist or conspiracy-laden content. Lindell was at least aware of that issue, saying he used his pillow riches to buy server infrastructure independent of major tech companies after Parler earlier this year got pulled from Apple’s App Store and Amazon stopped hosting its site. The site managed to find a new hosting provider and Apple says it will allow the company’s app in its store again — but only after Parler instituted new moderation techniques.
Even when they are able to stay online, alternatives have remained niche because their stated missions attract the most fringe voices. That pushes away advertisers and most potential users.
Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, recently expressed that Lindell will have a hard time making Frank work. "I don't think Mike understands what he is getting into with these projects, but he will soon enough," Torba wrote in a post to his site. "I wish him all the best." So at least someone’s rooting for him.