A new social media network led by Donald Trump adviser Jason Miller is backed by a fugitive Chinese billionaire who once invited Steve Bannon to live on his yacht.
On Thursday, Miller announced the launch of “Gettr,” a new social media app aimed at conservatives that promises to be “cancel-free.” Trump fans wary of social media censorship on more prominent platforms like Twitter and Facebook started to sign up for the platform after Politico reported on the existence of the new site.
What’s not made clear to Gettr’s new users, though, is that the site received initial funding from a foundation owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and his family. In an interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday, Miller said Guo’s “family foundation” provided Gettr with early funding.
“Some of the initial seed money has come from his family foundation,” Miller said of Guo, who also goes by the name Miles Kwok.
Guo isn’t a direct investor in Gettr, according to Miller, and doesn’t have a seat on its board or other formal role. The Trump adviser said the company was backed by a “consortium of international investors,” but declined to name them, beyond the Guo foundation, or the total amount of money that has been invested in the new social-media property so far. But while Miller downplayed Guo’s connection, sites associated with the billionaire have suggested that Gettr is Guo’s brainchild.
In a June video on GTV, a media outlet that serves as a mouthpiece for Guo, a host summarizing a recent Guo made about Getter said that the social media platform was “the concentration of Miles’s whole life work.” The host added that Guo had come up with the idea for Gettr’s logo, a torch.
“This logo of Gettr is his idea, representing that Gettr will ignite the hope of mankind and the spirit of the Olympic games,” the host read.
Miller told The Daily Beast he wasn’t sure who came up with the torch logo. When The Daily Beast asked Guo for comment, Guo’s staff forwarded the request to Miller.
Other websites associated with Guo have promoted Gettr for weeks, even though the site’s existence wasn’t widely known until Politico first reported on it Thursday.
Two weeks ago, a bizarre ad for Gettr was posted on GTV’s video channel. The video features actors in stock footage reacting with delight to images of Gettr’s website that have been superimposed over the footage. The ad promises that Gettr will be “gossipy” and feature “virus truth,” an apparent reference to Guo’s claims that the Chinese government was behind the coronavirus pandemic. Videos of Guo appear prominently in the ad, suggesting that the billionaire would be one of the site’s main attractions.
Guo, a vocal critic of the Chinese government who is wanted in that country on corruption charges, has developed close ties to top Trump allies. The billionaire paid former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon at least $1 million dollars, and teamed up with him to promote a Chinese doctor’s claims that the coronavirus was created by the Chinese government. When federal authorities arrested Bannon on fraud charges in August 2020, they found him on a yacht owned by Guo.
The new social media platform’s ties to Guo go beyond his family investment.
Bill Marczak and John Scott-Railton, senior researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, analyzed Gettr's underlying code for The Daily Beast and found numerous connections between Gettr and other Guo-related apps and online media platforms.
An earlier iteration of Gettr called “Getome,” which Guo once praised as a key part of his global strategy, also suggests that the billionaire has significant ties to Gettr.
Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store both list an obscure company, Chainnov Inc, as the owner of Gettr. Chainnov is also the owner of Getome. In the interview with The Daily Beast, Miller described Getome as an earlier iteration of Gettr.
Guo, whose media includes a number of attempts at alternative social platforms, hyped Getome in a May article on his G-News site.
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world,” Guo bragged about Getome. “G-News, G-TV, and Getome are at the point that can move the earth.”
Guo’s legions of social media supporters and trolls were among the first and most vocal adopters of Gettr starting on June 14, the day the app’s site went live.
They also told Getome users hoping to log in to Gettr that their old Getome credentials would allow them to access accounts on Gettr. Getome has since disappeared from Google’s Play Store, and its website is now inaccessible. But shortly before it went down, Getome’s site included promotion and a link to Gettr, according to archives of the site accessible in Google’s cache.
Gettr faces a number of rival social media platforms seeking to become the go-to network for conservatives. And while Trump establishing an account on Gettr would instantly turn the site into a significant name on the right, Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs tweeted on Thursday that Trump has no involvement with the site and doesn’t plan to join.
“He knows that we would love him to join the platform,” Miller told The Daily Beast. “We have ‘RealDonaldTrump’ saved for him.” The Trump confidant added that he’s recently spoken to the ex-president about joining the new platform, but declined to go into detail about those conversations.
Even at this early stage and without the former president’s commitment, Gettr’s connections to the upper echelons of Trumpworld are unmistakable. According to Miller, Tim Murtaugh, a fellow senior official on Trump’s reelection campaign, is “working on the media affairs side” of Gettr. In a text message on Thursday evening, Murtaugh corroborated this, saying that he’d doing so in a “consulting” capacity.
Despite Bannon’s close ties to Guo, Miller said Bannon does not have a formal position with Gettr. Guo’s business dealings with Bannon were reportedly the subject of a federal investigation in connection with fundraising for Guo’s GTV Media Group.
And though Gettr is being branded as an “anti-cancel-culture” haven, some of its terms of service appear to resemble that of other social-media sites that have banned prominent figures, such as former President Trump, following the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Miller said on Thursday that Gettr users “do not have a right to…bully, harass, or stalk others,” or to “traffic in homophobic or racial or religious slurs, or promote hate speech, or encourage self-harm or illegal behavior, or dox people, or post sexually explicit content.” Such Gettr behavior that is deemed as crossing the line could get a user booted by moderators, as is standard with major social-media websites.
The Trump adviser also mentioned that “content depicting violence…such as beheading”—specifically referencing liberal comic and actress Kathy Griffin’s famous anti-Trump photo—would not qualify as “free political speech” on Gettr.
And in an apparent bid to lure users from other platforms and grow its user base, Gettr allows Twitter users to import their content onto the platform. But Miller’s new site is already facing growing pains. Some new users reported that the site had encouraged them to follow a user named “Hitler” that used the German dictator’s face as its profile picture.
Gettr has also grappled with the appearance of at least one Miller imposter. Shortly after Gettr’s launch, an account called “Jason Miller” amassed hundreds of followers and claimed that Trump would soon join the social network. The account was later suspended.
Guo has also courted President Trump’s then-personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
In the runup to the 2020 election, pro-Guo pundits teased the existence of a Biden laptop “bombshell” weeks before news that Giuliani had obtained Hunter Biden’s device. After social media networks suspended or limited the reach of materials taken from Hunter Biden’s laptop, Guo’s social media platforms became one of the few places hosting materials from the laptop, including revenge porn of Hunter Biden, while Guo posed for pictures with Giuliani smoking cigars.
A previous version of this story stated that a Bloomberg reporter had tweeted that Trump had involvement with Gettr. That was a typo, she tweeted that Trump has no involvement with Gettr. The Daily Beast regrets this error.