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Anatomy of a MAGA scam

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What would you say if I told you there was a completely uncensorable, 100% secure phone you could buy that would not only stick it to those Silicon Valley elites, but it’d also help support good old American freedom and democracy?

Well, hell, I’d say: sign me up! Give me 10 Freedom phones and a side of making shit great again.

First though, let’s take a look at what we’re getting into. I love Freedom© as much as the next person but I’m also a technology journalist. And that means I can tell you how awesome this is!

Behold the the badass Freedom phone!

Specs:

  • CPU: Connects directly to James Woods’ brain via the cloud
  • Screen: 4K is for liberals and nerds
  • OS: Whatever the cheapest Android clone we could smash together was
  • RAM: No thanks, I prefer Ford trucks.
  • Battery: Google says that’s a song by Metallica but this device only plays Kid Rock
  • Ports: You’re an idiot, you don’t care. (Seriously, there’s NO information on the website)

Okay, those aren’t the real specs. I mean, they could be. Nobody freaking knows.

There’s a website. But, well, it’s a hoot. It invokes the kind of imagery you’d imagine if MyPillow had a news show on OANN at the highly-coveted 2AM time slot and Freedom Phone bought 20 minutes of advertising time.

Do you love Freedom? Did you know that Osama, whoops, I mean Obama uses phones from US companies such as Google and Apple? Are you a liberal, communist, piece of America-hating crap like Obama? No? Then why are you using the same phone as a liberal, communist, piece of America-hating crap?

In all seriousness: On a scale of one to the life’s work of Charles Ponzi, I’d rate the Freedom Phone the Joe Exotic’s run for Governor of smart phone scams.

Here’s a tweet thread from the proprietor of the Freedom Phone, Erik Finman:

In announcing the phone, Finman says it comes “complete with it’s own Uncensorable App Store & Privacy Features.” This sets the huckster, carnival barker tone that Finman’s adopted for this particular scam (more on Finman later, he and the media go back a few years).

Words like “uncensorable,” capitalized above, are meaningless buzzwords employed to attract conservatives who know little-to-nothing about tech.

But we know smart phones here at TNW. Our Plugged sub-brand has some of the finest reviewers in the business. And we’ve reviewed hundreds (if not thousands) of smart phones over the years. So trust me when I tell you that it’s always a bad sign when a manufacturer won’t disclose technical specs.

What we do know is that Finman’s phone is cobbled together from Chinese parts and features a hodge-podge OS. That doesn’t mean it sucks, but there’s definitely a reason he won’t share any of the actual tech specs. And it’s almost certainly because this phone has shit hardware and a shittier OS.

Furthermore, there’s no such thing as uncensorable. Finman is preying on ignorance. Buying a Freedom Phone won’t get you unblocked from Facebook or let you tell your truth about vaccines on Twitter.

All this phone can do, is come up with a homemade app store that allows people who can’t peddle their apps on other app stores, such as Alex Jones, to access the user base. In other words: You’re paying $500 for a device using an OS and app store that is almost guaranteed to fail.

App stores take a certain percentage of revenue in order to facilitate seamless transactions. In this case, there will be next to no revenue for anyone participating in Finman’s scam. Freedom Phone only needs to sell a few hundred thousand units for Finman to make another million or so.

But let’s imagine you’re in an online eco-system with 500K other users. All of you are like-minded, MAGA-loving, Americans who just want to get your news from right wing outlets and socialize with people who think like you.

No offense, but who the hell wants to develop an app with a 100% saturation ceiling of 500K users? Literal billions of people play mindless puzzle games on Facebook and even a modest hit in the Apple store ticks a million or more users in a single day.

Even among Trump supporters, there’s only a very small percentage of people who would so gleefully seek such an insular experience.

Even worse, buying this phone won’t give you any more access to right wing voices than any other phone currently does. Because your phone, OS, browser, or app store isn’t what’s censoring them.

They’re not being censored. They’re being deplatformed. And a smart phone isn’t a platform.

So when the Daily Stormer gets taken down because nobody will host it – that means it’s down no matter what your phone’s personal politics are. When Trump gets kicked off Facebook and Twitter and then fails to start his own successful social media network despite nobody trying to stop him, that’s not censorship. A Freedom Phone won’t can’t connect you to something that doesn’t exist.

At the end of the day, this is a $500 “legal” scam. Finman’s selling you a phone. As long as it functions at all, he’ll have lived up to his end of the contract. But you’re almost certainly getting a piece of shit phone with a barely-functioning OS that absolutely “uncensors” nothing.

Here’s the worst part: Erik Finman knows exactly what he’s doing. I said we’d get to him, here we go.

I started covering the “Teenage Bitcoin millionaire” back in 2018. I was enamored of his entrepreneurship and, as someone who went through a pretty big punk rock phase in his late teens, I saw a bit of myself in Erik’s brashness.

An Instagram post from Erik Finman, lying on a mattress holding a pistol, surrounded by cash.

Finman and I talked several times, though if I recall correctly I only wrote twostories about him. Over a couple of years he and I discussed data – I’ve always maintained we should get paid for our data – and other topics such as the education system, cryptocurrency, and satellites.

a screenshot of a deleted tweet