• Mahsa Forghani

The Truth About Truth Social

Updated: Oct 17


Donald Trump speaking at the Turning Point USA's Student Action Summit 2019 at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons).


The removal of Donald Trump from Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and many more social media platforms on January 8, 2021, quickly rose to be big news in the world of both social media and politics. The most consequential of these banned accounts proved to be his personal Twitter: @realDonaldTrump, from which Trump was known to post frequently. In response to the account being taken down, Trump decided to create a Twitter-esque social media platform of his own. His social media platform, Truth Social, launched almost a year later and has since been the subject of widespread commentary.


The Creation of Truth Social

On January 6, 2021, following a Trump rally in Washington D.C, over 2,000 of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Simultaneously, in the House chambers, politicians were discussing the validity of the election results that named Joe Biden the next president of the United States. Meanwhile, Trump took to Twitter to send messages to his supporters, writing, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long.” Many interpreted this as him encouraging his followers’ behavior, while others chalked it up to him merely showing adoration for their support of him. Nonetheless, Twitter blocked Trump from posting until further notice and subsequently suspended his account for good. In the same month, the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) was founded. And that following October, its upcoming social media platform, Truth Social was announced. Proposed to be an alternative to Twitter and Facebook, Truth Social claimed to be a platform free from political discrimination.


That same month, hackers affiliated with hacking collective Anonymous gained access to the unreleased version of Truth Social. Using a false account under Trump’s name, they sent a variety of explicit posts. This was, to many people, their first impression of the new platform. Many people already had their doubts, and even called the app “embarrassing” for Trump.


The Launch of Truth Social


The Truth Social app officially launched on February 21, 2022. Many noticed that the app was exactly what people had expected it to be: a replica of Facebook and Twitter. The app even put its own spin on tweets and re-tweets, naming them “truths” and “re-truths”. However, unlike Trump’s perception of Twitter and Facebook, this app claimed to be completely unbiased and free from political censorship or discrimination. Trump stated, “Unlike with the Big Tech platforms, there will be no shadow-banning, throttling, demonetizing, or messing with algorithms for political manipulation. We will not be treating users like lab rats for social experiments, or labeling alternative views as ‘disinformation.’ We will not silence our fellow citizens simply because they might be wrong — or worse, because we think that Americans ‘can't handle the truth.’” And yet, despite these seemingly pure incentives, the app has gotten off to a “rocky start”. Upon its release, Truth Social debuted at #1 on the Apple Store’s most downloaded list. After a week, its place had already dropped drastically. After two weeks, the app was below 100 on the list. Why? The general consensus is that the app just isn’t user-friendly. Those who have tried to sign up have been met with error messages. Others have not been receiving verification. One user wrote, “Truth social has said they sent me a sign up email for the fourth time now in two days - still nothing in any mailbox.” Those who have been able to sign up for the app have faced a different issue: the waitlist. Once a user registers for Truth Social, their account is put on a waitlist to be granted access to the app. However, this waitlist is typically tens of thousands of people long, leading most people to express their dissatisfaction with the app’s inaccessibility. In addition, this app is not available for download on Google Play, Android’s app store. Google Play has restrictions and standards in place regarding apps’ content moderation policies, which Truth Social allegedly doesn’t meet due to their lack of moderation for user content. The app has been marketed as an app free of restrictions, so it makes sense that their moderation policies are relaxed, but this has barred Android users access to the app.


In addition, Truth Social found itself caught up in the threat of legal battle, specifically with software company Mastodon. Mastodon is a free social media framework that lends its source code to companies. One such company is Trump Media & Technology Group. Using Mastodon, TMTG created its test version of Truth Social. This is not illegal, as Mastodon is created to be used by other sites. What caused them trouble, however, was Truth Social’s failure to comply with Mastodon’s software license that outlines the crediting of Mastodon. It is required for all of the companies that use Mastodon to give them credit and make their source code available to the public domain, even if the code has been modified (which is the case for Truth Social). Truth Social allegedly failed to do so. In fact, Truth Social included in its terms of service in 2021 that “[u]nless otherwise indicated, the Site is our proprietary property and all source code, databases, functionality, software, website designs . . . are owned or controlled by us or licensed to us . . .” This led to the threat of a lawsuit from Mastodon, to which Truth Social responded with a new open-software page crediting Mastodon.


What’s Happened Since?


In October 2021, TMTG announced a proposed merger with the company Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC), a blank check company. DWAC was intended to bring TMTG onto the Nasdaq, among other things. The deadline for this merger was set for September 20, 2022. This date has since passed, and the merger has not been completed due to a lack of shareholder support. Much of this comes from accusations of talks being held between TMTG and DWAC prior to the blank check company being officially established. This would violate the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) rule against merger agreements being formed prior to Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), such as DWAC, going public. In addition, the SEC’s review of the merger has been delayed due to criminal investigations, with TMTG stating, “The SEC has stalled its review of our planned merger with DWAC, having failed to act despite DWAC having filed its registration statement more than four months ago.” In light of these delays, DWAC has sought to extend their merger deadline to December, 2022, spending about $3 million to do so. If the merger deal isn’t closed, DWAC may be forced to liquidate. Even today, however, investors have already begun pulling money out of the deal, totaling to about $139 million dollars lost on the part of the DWAC. Stocks for Digital World Acquisition Corp. have been rapidly declining, and many question what this means for the future of Truth Social. DWAC has been trying to extend deadlines, but if they are not met, they will have to liquidate and return money to investors at a $10 per share rate. Simply put: it will mean a loss of money for Trump, and it will put Truth Social’s future in the balance.


 

Sources & Further Reading

https://www.glamour.com/story/donald-trump-social-media-bans-twitter-facebook

https://www.npr.org/2022/01/05/1069977469/a-timeline-of-how-the-jan-6-attack-unfolded-including-who-said-what-and-when

https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/11/967034292/house-democrats-use-trumps-own-words-to-argue-he-showed-no-remorse-after-attack

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/10/22/donald-trumps-social-media-platform-truth-social-hacked-anonymous/6138301001/

https://www.businessinsider.com/investors-pull-140-million-from-merger-with-trumps-truth-social-2022-9

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/digital-world-stock-price-truth-social-threatens-sec-lawsuit-spac-2022-9

https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2022/09/06/truth-social-spac-reportedly-fails-to-get-shareholder-support-to-prolong-acquisition/?sh=1b4b437ecf68 ​​https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/20/trump-media-investor-pressure-dwac-merger-at-risk.html

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082243094/trumps-social-media-app-launches-year-after-twitter-ban

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/597413-trumps-truth-social-gets-off-to-a-rocky-start/

https://piunikaweb.com/2022/08/02/truth-social-sign-up-not-working-for-many-others-get-moved-to-waiting-list/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/30/tech/truth-social-google-store/index.html

https://sites.suffolk.edu/jhtl/2022/02/03/a-mastodon-sized-problem-trumps-truth-social-neglects-to-credit-source-code/

https://www.engadget.com/trump-truth-social-software-license-violation-185629984.html

https://www.pcmag.com/opinions/trumps-truth-social-can-only-make-mastodon-stronger