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Truth Social

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Truth Social
Truth Social logo 2022.svg
Type of site
Social networking service
FoundedOctober 20, 2021 (2021-10-20) (9 months and 22 days ago)
Area servedUnited States, Canada
OwnerTrump Media & Technology Group
Founder(s)Donald Trump
Key peopleDevin Nunes (CEO)
IndustryInternet
URLtruthsocial.com
RegistrationRequired
Users513,000 daily (active) as of April 2022 2 million monthly (active) as of April 2022
LaunchedFebruary 21, 2022
Current statusReleased
Native client(s) oniOS, Web

Truth Social (also stylized as TRUTH Social) is a social media platform created by Trump Media & Technology Group, an American media and technology company founded in October 2021 by former U.S. president Donald Trump. The platform's competitors include Twitter, Parler, and Gab.[1][2][3][4][5]

The service launched on February 21, 2022.

History

Background

Former U.S. president Donald Trump raised the prospect of building a new social media platform after he was banned from Facebook and Twitter in 2021, following the 2021 United States Capitol attack.[6] In May 2021, Trump launched "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump", a web page where he posted short tweet-like announcements; it was shut down after less than a month,[7] with Trump's senior aide Jason Miller confirming that it would not be coming back.[8][9]

Inception

According to Reuters, two members of the cast of Trump's TV show The Apprentice, Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky, were "central" to the founding of Truth Social's parent company, the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), having allegedly pitched the idea of a social network to Trump in January 2021.[10]

To facilitate becoming a publicly traded company, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC) was created with the help of ARC Capital, a Shanghai-based firm specializing in listing Chinese companies on American stock markets that has been a target of SEC investigations for misrepresenting shell corporations.[11][12][13][14] Led by former Mexican government official and China-based banker Abraham Cinta, ARC Capital's global links included offices in Shanghai, Wuhan, Mexico City, and Jakarta, which Bloomberg News described as "surprising" due to Trump's comments on various foreign countries in office.[15][16] Some investors were surprised to learn that their investment money was being used to finance a Trump company.[17] The DWAC chief executive Patrick Orlando, a Florida-based financier and former Deutsche Bank trader, was also the chief executive of the Wuhan-based Yunhong Holdings/Yunhong International, registered in the offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands.[18][19][20][21] In an October 2021 SEC filing, the blank check company Yunhong International stated its goal was to "capitalize on growing opportunities created by consumer/lifestyle businesses that have their primary operations in Asia."[22] An additional backer of the Trump social media venture, becoming the CFO of Digital World Acquisition, was Brazilian parliamentarian Luiz Philippe of Orléans-Braganza, a monarchist allied with Jair Bolsonaro.[19][23]

In October 2021, TMTG published a document outlining the Truth Social platform, citing a poll saying one-third of the U.S. population polled had stated they would use a social media platform endorsed by Trump.[24] On October 20, TMTG issued a press release announcing the platform would have its public launch in "the first quarter of 2022." It was slated to enter limited beta for iOS in Apple's App Store in November 2021,[25][26][27] and though it did not meet this schedule for its beta testing,[28] Trump claimed in December 2021 that "invited guests" were already using the beta system.[29][30]

Hours after the press release, a person identifying themselves as a part of the hacker collective Anonymous used Shodan to discover domains related to the company, eventually locating what appeared to be a publicly-accessible mobile beta of the service. The URL, which permitted users to sign up and use the platform, was leaked across social media.[31] Users began trolling, creating parody accounts, and posting rants and memes. Users were able to sign up with usernames of high-profile individuals including Trump, Mike Pence, and Jack Dorsey.[32] The link was later taken offline.[33]

Reactions

The New York Times described Truth Social as an addition to the field of already-existing alt-tech platforms.[3] BBC journalist James Clayton stated that the platform could be a more successful version of other alt-tech social media platforms like Parler and Gab, and is an attempt by Trump to gain his "megaphone" back.[4] Gettr CEO Jason Miller, a former Trump advisor, praised Truth Social and said that the platform will cause Facebook and Twitter to "lose even more market share".[34] Gab said in a statement that it supports Truth Social and that users of Gab can follow Trump on his reserved Gab account.[35]

Among critical reactions, Chris Cillizza of CNN wrote that the platform was doomed to fail.[36] Noah Berlatsky, writing in The Independent, described it as a potential threat to democracy.[37] The Forward raised concerns of antisemitism becoming prominent on the platform, noting similar platforms that have become known for hosting antisemitic content, such as Parler, Gab, and Telegram.[38] Rolling Stone observed that while Truth Social promises to be an open and free platform, Truth Social's terms of service include a clause stating that users cannot disparage the service.[39] The New York Times expressed skepticism about whether Truth Social would be able to compete effectively against rival services.[40]

Platform

Personnel

Truth Social is run by Trump Media & Technology Group, headed by Devin Nunes. In 2022, Talking Points Memo stated that Nunes' renumeration was $750,000 per year.[41] Other senior employees included chief of technology Josh Adams and chief of product development Billy Boozer, who both subsequently left the company.[42]

The company's headquarters are in Sarasota, Florida.[43] As of March 2022, the company was reported to have about 40 employees.[44]

Software

Truth Social is modeled heavily after Twitter. Users are able to make posts ("Truths", similar to tweets) and share other users' posts ("ReTruths", similar to retweets).[45] The Truth Social platform uses a custom version of the free and open-source social network hosting software Mastodon as its backend, which omits several features, including polls and post visibility options.[46][47]

The platform uses the Soapbox frontend usually used with the Pleroma system instead of Mastodon's native frontend.[47] TMTG has advertised for developers with skills in using Elixir, the programming language used to build Soapbox.[48]

On October 21, 2021, the Software Freedom Conservancy group stated that they suspected Truth Social had violated Mastodon's AGPLv3 license by not offering its source code to all users.[49][50][51] The Mastodon developers then formally requested that Truth Social comply with the terms of the software license,[52] with Truth Social publishing its source code as a ZIP file on the website on November 12, 2021.[53] On 22 February 2022, the ZIP file was taken down from the Truth Social website.[54] A mirror of the source code can still be accessed on GitHub, where it was uploaded by uninvolved individuals.

As of April 2022, the service was only accessible via an iPhone app, with neither a web interface nor an Android app available.[55][56] CEO Devin Nunes announced that a web version would also be available in the future.[57] In May 2022, the service launched a web app for accessing the service, allowing people from any internet browser to access the site, although access is still geographically restricted.[58]

Infrastructure

The Truth Social service was originally hosted on RightForge, a company aimed at providing internet hosting for conservative causes that describes itself as "The first global Internet infrastructure company committed to American principles online".[59][60]

On December 14, 2021, TMTG said it had partnered with the Canadian online video platform Rumble and that Rumble was already providing cloud services to the Truth Social beta service.[29] On 21 April 2022, TMTG announced that Truth Social would be moving to Rumble's cloud platform,[61] and announced that they would be performing infrastructure upgrades to increase the performance of the platform.[62]

TMTG engaged the services of Hive, a content moderation company that uses machine learning to filter postings for unacceptable content.[63]

As of June 2022, Truth Social was reporting that it was using Cloudflare as its CDN for both mobile and web traffic.[64] Reuters reported that Fastly had refused to take Truth Social on as a customer.[10]

Content policies

Truth Social was launched proclaiming itself as a "big tent" platform without political censorship, allowing for "free expression".[65][66][67]

When the company was first announced in October 2021, its terms of service said the company would not be legally responsible for "the content, accuracy, offensiveness, opinions [or] reliability" of anything users might post to the service.[68] Some commentators noted that this self-declared immunity appeared to rely on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that Trump firmly opposed during his presidency.[33][69][70]

The terms of service further added that users would be forbidden to "disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site". Truth Social said it has the right to "suspend or terminate your account" and also "take appropriate legal action".[69]

Truth Social has blocked accounts for behavior it considers harmful or inappropriate, including creating accounts with parody names and making death threats.[71][72]

Allegations of censorship by Truth Social

The platform has been widely accused of censorship.[73][74][75]

In June 2022, several accounts were reportedly banned after posting about the January 6 hearings, which were called to investigate the 2021 United States Capitol attack in which a mob of Trump supporters seeking to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election attacked the United States Congress.[76][77]

According to an August 2022 report from progressive consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen, Truth Social was found to shadowban liberal and progressive users that disagree with the site's narrative as well as a swathe of other content including some conservative content. "Truth Social" has banned content mentioning abortion and the January 6 hearings.[78][79][75] Public Citizen concluded that Truth Social's content moderation was substantially more limiting than Twitter, and said that Truth Social's policies were creating an echo chamber of violent views.[78][79]

Operations

Launch

Trump made the platform's first post on February 16, 2022.[80] That day, TMTG CEO Devin Nunes said he expected the platform would not completely open to the public until late March.[81] A beta test with 500 users was in operation during February 2022.[82]

On February 21, 2022, Truth Social was released on Apple iOS,[83] reaching No. 1 on Apple's App Store's top charts.[84][85] Due to an extensive backlog of applicants, upon downloading the app, about 500,000 people who initially attempted to register as users were automatically waitlisted.[86][87][88]

The app was installed 872,000 times during its first week, but a month later, new user signup had fallen to 60,000 per week. During that same time period, weekly visits to truthsocial.com fell from 6 million to fewer than 2 million.[89]

Upon its launch, the British automotive solar power company Trailar complained that the Truth Social app logo closely resembled their "T" logo.[90]

The platform has been criticized for its poor performance at launch, with waitlisting of users attempting to register, and extended outages.[91] A day after the product launch, The Washington Post described it as "a disaster".[86] One week after its launch, Newsweek reported that some early adopters were beginning to lose interest in the app due to low numbers of users and poor engagement, although others were willing to persevere with the app to see if things would improve.[92]

Growth problems

The Truth Social platform has suffered from severe and persistent problems with scalability from the outset, limiting the platform's growth.[93][94]

In early March 2022, multiple sources reported that Truth Social usage remained low, with Trump himself not having posted to his account since his first message two weeks earlier, with his account only having 140,000 followers—less than 0.2% of the 90 million followers he had on Twitter before his account was banned.[67][93] The Daily Dot reported that the Truth Social iPhone app had fallen from the #1 slot for downloads on the Apple App Store to #84.[95] The Daily Beast reported that Trump was dissatisfied with the social network's progress.[94][55]

At the end of March 2022, TheWrap reported that weekly installations of the Truth Social app had fallen from 872,000 in its launch week to around 60,000 per week, a reduction of over 90%. Visits to truthsocial.com had also fallen, from 6 million per week to 1.9 million. According to Sensor Tower, Truth Social has been downloaded 1.2 million times by late March.[96] In early April 2022, Bloomberg reported that shares in Truth Social's publicly traded holding company Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC) had fallen 31% from the time of the app's launch in late February[97] and 64% from its all-time high.[98]

In early April 2022, Business Insider described Truth Social as "like a conservative ghost town that had been overrun by bots".[99] A U.S.-based reporter for the BBC attempted to sign up in early April and was placed on a wait list with about 1.4 million requests ahead of him.[100]

On April 4, it was reported that Josh Adams and Billy Boozer, the platform's chief of technology and chief of product development respectively, had left the company.[42][9] A report in The Washington Post stated that Truth Social was "falling apart", with problems mounting on multiple fronts.[101] A Guardian article compared Truth Social with Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka.[102]

As of late April 2022, MarketWatch reported that Truth Social had around 513,000 active daily users, in comparison to Twitter's reported active daily userbase of 217 million.[103]

As of early June 2022, SimilarWeb reported Truth Social's iOS app as ranking #49 in the category of social networking apps on the Apple App Store.[104]

Proposed acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk

Following Elon Musk's proposed acquisition of Twitter, numerous commentators observed that a Musk-run Twitter would be likely to reduce demand for Truth Social's services.[105][106] Musk stated that as of late April 2022, Truth Social iOS app downloads exceeded those of Twitter and TikTok on the same platform.[107] Musk stated Truth Social only exists because of Twitter's restrictions on free speech. Describing 'Truth Social' as a "terrible name", Musk joked that Truth Social should be renamed "Trumpet".[108][109]

Following Musk's comments on Twitter, the Truth Social app rose in popularity, returning to the #1 position for free iOS apps on Apple's App Store on April 30, with the Twitter app at #2, and DWAC shares also rose in value.[110][111][112]

DWAC's share price fell after Musk's announcement of his intention to buy Twitter.[113]

Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes later stated that Musk had been encouraged by Trump to buy Twitter.[114] Musk has denied this, saying that "This is false. I’ve had no communication, directly or indirectly, with Trump, who has publicly stated that he will be exclusively on Truth Social".[115][116] Musk subsequently stated that he intends to undo Twitter's ban on Trump's Twitter account if his bid for the company is successful.[117] Following Musk's comments, Nunes reiterated that Trump was committed to Truth Social, and would not rejoin Twitter even if his ban were to be lifted.[118]

Following Musk's announcement in July that he wanted to stop his purchase of Twitter, DWAC shares rose.[119]

Revenue

As of May 2022, Truth Social had not secured any advertising revenue. TMTG has stated that it "expects to incur significant losses into the foreseeable future".[120]

Legal issues

In June 2022, federal regulators investigated whether TMTG had illegally coordinated with its holding company, Digital World Acquisition Corp, prior to the latter going public.[121] A federal grand jury was empaneled as part of the investigation. TMTG released a statement saying that they are cooperating with the investigation.[122]

Donald Trump was later revealed to have left the company's board on June 8, prior to the issuing of subpoenas.[123]

Other issues

Axios reported that Truth Social had given a verified account to the white nationalist advocate[124] Nick Fuentes, who has been banned from Twitter and Facebook. Axios also reported that there were official-looking accounts for @FoxNews, @TMZ, @NFL, @NASA and @NASCAR and other brands, with legitimate-appearing links and logos, which had not been created by the named entities.[125] The @FoxNews account has since been verified by the platform.[126] By April 2022, the @nytimes account was labeled "The Failing NY Times," while @CNN was labeled "CNN (Parody)".[127]

World Trademark Review has reported that "Truth Social" has been registered as a trademark in the European Union, potentially preventing the Truth Social service from operating in most of Europe.[128][129]

Notable users

Donald Trump

Although Donald Trump's participation in TMTG and the scale of his social media following was a major part of TMTG's marketing for Truth Social,[24] Trump was initially not a frequent user of the Truth Social platform. He made the platform's first post on 16 February 2022 with the message "Get ready! Your favorite president will see you soon",[80] but did not make a second posting until 28 April, posting "I'M BACK! #COVFEFE", a reference to the covfefe meme.[130] Trump then started posting more frequently.[131]

Following the announcement of Elon Musk's proposed takeover of Twitter, Trump publicly stated that he does not intend to return to Twitter, and intends to remain on Truth Social.[132][133][134] On 6 May, in a court filing responding to the New York attorney general's demand for his cell phones, Trump said that Truth Social had recently given him a phone that he only uses to post on Truth Social.[135]

According to reports, Trump has a licensing agreement with TMTG requiring him to use Truth Social as his primary social media platform, and to wait at least six hours before reposting material to any other social media platform, with some exceptions for political activities.[136][137]

Trump's Truth Social posts had been reposted to Twitter, under the account @PresTrumpTS. Twitter suspended the account in May, but by that point the account had posted to Twitter over 200 of Trump's Truth Social posts.[138][139][140]

Gavin Newsom

On Thursday, June 16, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he had joined former President Donald Trump's Truth Social, writing on his Twitter account "I just joined Trump’s Truth Social. Going to be on there calling out Republican lies. This could get…interesting. My first post -- breaking down America’s red state murder problem."[141][142][143]

See also

References

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External links

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