On Saturday, February 2, 2013 the Tea Party Community (TPC) website officially launched. Billing itself as “the conservative answer to Facebook,” TPC has grown quickly, amassing 100,000 members in its first 9 days, and earning its own article on Wikipedia.
TPC is a new online platform for citizens concerned about government waste and overreach to network and organize. Although it’s a tool designed for a political movement, there’s a lot that citizen journalists can learn from TPC. Even if you aren’t involved with the Tea Party, the community is worth a visit if only to see how citizens are using the newest social media platforms to connect. And no matter what your views are on the movement, the Tea Party is passionate about holding government accountable–a goal that all of us at Watchdog Wire can get behind.
Watchdog Wire is hosting a tweet-up with one of TPC’s founders, Tim Selaty, Sr., on Wednesday, February 13th from Noon to 1:00 p.m. EST. Use the hashtag #WDWTU and follow @WatchdogWire to join in! Click here to learn more about how tweet-ups work.
TPC has now become a national phenomenon, but how did it start, what challenges did it face, and where is it going? We asked these questions, and many others, in our exclusive interview with TPC co-founder Tim Selaty, Sr. Watchdog Wire’s interview with Tim–and his candid answers–is below:
WDW: TPC sounds like a great new tool for citizens. What do you hope to accomplish through the site?
Tim Selaty Sr.: The Tea Party Community is the conservative answer to Facebook. Unlike Facebook, TPC has the goal of linking like-minded conservatives to a single, friendly platform. Many conservatives have found Facebook to be unforgiving to conservative views, and many have been banned with nowhere to go. TPC will change that. Because of the mission of TPC, we will not reach the billions of users that Facebook has, but we certainly can and will reach millions. There is no other platform bringing people together like this, and the good news is that because TPC shares a few familiar similarities with Facebook, there is little change to manage. We hope to accomplish our directives with a collective and concentrated effort to compete with mainstream social media and broadcast media.
WDW: What about people who aren’t necessarily involved with the Tea Party–can they still join TPC? Is there a vetting process to sign up?
Tim Selaty Sr.: There is no “vetting” process per say. The Tea Party Community was built by conservatives for conservatives. We definitely welcome all like minded persons or groups to join.
WDW: Registration for TPC exploded the first few days after launching. Why do you think that is? Do you think it will continue? Where is registration now?
Tim Selaty Sr.: One of the key factors the contributed to our explosive growth was an article written by Mr. Todd Starnes of Fox news and a live interview on Fox and Friends. We saw a rapid growth just prior to our official launch that can also be attributed to an article written by Mr. Starnes about “The Chicks On The Right” being locked out of their Facebook account. Our membership is currently just over 100,000 and continues to grow by a few hundred daily.
WDW: One thing TPC has in common with Watchdog Wire is a focus on states. Tell me about TPC’s state hubs. What role can citizens play at the state level?
Tim Selaty Sr.: Our state hubs are currently being developed as the main vehicle to help our members to become active at the state level and even the county level. We have a detailed strategy behind their development including a citizen journalist and broadcast network in each state. While the state hubs are still new, we are currently vetting management staff to run the online hubs, grassroots organizers, event coordinators, and fundraisers alike will work harmoniously to accomplish each state’s initiatives. Let’s say that we were to get 50 million conservatives together in one place–imagine the political implications of that! Because TPC has established “state hubs,” it’s easy for Tea Party activists and other grass roots organizations to join in their state hub and begin reaching out to their audiences.
WDW: The legacy media has really distorted the image and message of the Tea Party.In your own words, what does the Tea Party stand for?
Tim Selaty Sr.: “Taxed Enough Already” is the short answer. The TEA Party stands as a representative body of Americans who are fed up with the direction the federal government has taken our country economically with its many extreme, out-of-control, and unaccountable spending habits. We as Americans are all required to be responsible for our financial decisions and we expect the government to be responsible with the money we are required to give to them.
WDW: We’re big on holding government accountable too. But aren’t you preaching to the choir?
Tim Selaty Sr.: We don’t believe so. There are many different factions of the Tea Party that weren’t able to come together as an effective force during the last election cycle. We believe this was because each one had a different idea of how to be effective. We are hoping to work together and focus on the issues that we do agree on while working out our different issues that we don’t agree upon.
WDW: Will using the well know brand “Tea Party” limit your audience, perhaps to people who are active in local Tea Party chapters?
Tim Selaty Sr.: We don’t believe so. Many have said in the mainstream media that “The Tea Party is Dead.” We believe the Tea Party may have been disorganized and marginalized, but it is far from being dead. Our intentions are to reorganize and mobilize in a unified fashion to be an effective force during the next and future elections.
WDW: You mentioned that TPC is intended as an alternative to Facebook. What about Facebook wasn’t meeting the needs of the Tea Party?
Tim Selaty Sr.: Facebook is a great platform for its intended purpose. We believe that it has some important limitations in the ability to network on a large scale with fellow conservatives. Facebook seems to have been censoring conservative material and accounts (whether this is mostly due to an automated report and flagging system is unclear). We know this from our own personal experiences and that of other conservative groups like Chicks On The Right, Jan Morgan and fellow Patriots whose content or accounts have been moderated. There have been TPC members who have stated that their accounts on Facebook were either unjustly moderated, warned, suspended, and some even terminated without reason.
WDW: Why did you use a model similar to Facebook? Is there any concern about patent or copyright infringement?
Tim Selaty Sr.: We decided to provide conservatives with a type of social media platform that shared similarities and standard community features that they were already accustomed to seeing. We didn’t want our members to have a large learning curve when being introduced with a new platform.
The Social Engine platform that we have chosen (PHPFOX) has been available for sale to the public for a few years now and is used by several hundred other websites to date. Although our color scheme and layout shares a few similarities, it’s not exact. If you visit the two sites you’ll see the clear difference in design, layout, and functionality.
We are in the process of gathering funds which will enable us to continue adding staff and developers for the new unique social engine software we’re already creating (behind the scenes). The new software will be built from the ground-up and will reveal and hopefully surpass that of our competitors in the near future. We have not been contacted by Facebook with any type of cease and desist. We also clearly state this disclaimer on our home page as not to be confused with Facebook: DISCLAIMER: Tea Party Community is not associated or affiliated with Facebook© or Facebook.com.
WDW: The media likes to twist the Tea Party’s words to make its members sound extreme. Do you have a policy on what can and cannot be posted? What guided your thought process in creating this?
Tim Selaty Sr.: As with any community online there usually is, and should always be, a clear set of guidelines to protect the members of that community, and the business entity behind said community. We do believe in “Free Speech” but don’t allow what’s considered “Illegal Speech.”
Some of the main rules we ask TPC members to abide by include respect for persons of all races and religions and refraining from derogatory comments or violent language. We do not tolerate hate speech, calls for armed aggression or other violence, threats against people or groups, or obscene or indecent content. We encourage you to check out our full list of terms and conditions, which includes our speech policy, before you join.
WDW: What happened the weekend that TPC launched? There are rumors that the site was hacked, with some sources saying a high volume of traffic was coming from China that shut down the site.
Tim Selaty Sr.: TPC experienced a Denial of Service botnet attack just 35 minutes prior to our live radio/video broadcast on the Trento Vision show with special guests co-founder Ken Crow and media partner Jan Morgan of JanMorganmedia.com. While we caught the attack early, we spoke our hosting provider and was agreed to temporarily disable network access to the website through a process of “null routing” our server’s IP to prevent over saturating the network and reducing the collateral damage to other sites from the attack. As with most BotNet attacks, traffic came from all around the world but the largest amount of traffic (packets) came from Mississippi.
WDW: Who all is involved in TPC? How are you funding it? Do you hope to make this a profitable venture or is it a non-profit?
Tim Selaty Sr.: TPC was founded and created by Tim Selaty Jr., Michelle Selaty, and myself, along with Ken Crow and Kevin Jackson. Our community and the funds needed to drive the growth of the website is solely funded at this time by donations from the community. With the donations to-date, we’ve been able to add new functionality and enhance existing site features to better tailor to the needs of the community. We’ve also hired several talented individuals with different but important roles and we’re looking to continue increasing our staff including but not limited to: state hub directors, forum moderators, site feed moderators, graphic designers, petition directors, developers, database administrators, etc.
There are several for-profit models built-in into TPC (from PHPFOX’s original software) such as self-placed advertising,a store and actions (coming soon), and featuring several different types of content for an additional cost.
We have had over one thousand volunteer applications submitted to us over the last 4 weeks and are in the process of vetting other key people in top level management, spokesman, and other various positions within our organization. TPC is currently seeking investors who share our dream and are as excited as we are about the possibilities and future to come.
Here’s what some people are saying about TPC. Not everyone sounds pleased with the idea of conservative activists networking on social media!
TEA Party Community – League of Their Own – Daily Kos
Tea Party Community, an Unsocial Facebook Rival? – Technorati
Tea Party Republicans Leave Facebook, Launch Own Community – Black Enterprise