After Donald Trump was banned from Facebook, Twitter, and other services due to his comments following the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the former president was left looking for new ways to communicate with his followers. Some members of Trump’s team tried to get him onto fringe services like Gab (which has become a hotbed of racist, antisemitic, and alt-right content). But in March 2021, Trump spokesman Jason Miller announced that Trump would create his own social media platform, claiming that it would be “the hottest ticket in social media.”
On May 4, 2021, Trump launched a blog titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” on his official website, calling it “a beacon of freedom” and “a place to speak freely and safely.” Less than a month later, however, the blog was shut down — either because it wasn’t getting enough traffic or because it was no longer necessary, depending on who you listen to.
Finally, on October 20, 2021, the Trump Media & Technology Group announced Truth Social, a new social media platform that “encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.” TMTG billed Truth Social as part of its stated mission to “create a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.” Or, as Trump himself put it:
I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech. We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable. I am excited to send out my first TRUTH on TRUTH Social very soon. TMTG was founded with a mission to give a voice to all. I’m excited to soon begin sharing my thoughts on TRUTH Social and to fight back against Big Tech. Everyone asks me why doesn’t someone stand up to Big Tech? Well, we will be soon!
You can read TMTG’s full announcement here.
Trouble Since Day One
Unfortunately for Trump and TMTG, Truth Social has been plagued with issues from day one.
Trump’s new platform was originally going to launch with an invitation-only beta in November 2021. Nevertheless, the hacker collective Anonymous found a way to access it within hours of TMTG’s October announcement. Users quickly flooded Truth Social with fake accounts for Trump, Mike Pence, and other high-profile individuals, and successfully trolled the service before being shut out.
Truth Social also faced potential legal action shortly after TMTG’s announcement. Mastodon — the open source software upon which Truth Social is built — accused TMTG of violating their license by not releasing Truth Social’s source code. (Truth Social’s developers eventually released their source code a month later.)
When it was officially released on February 21, 2022, Truth Social quickly became the #1 iOS app, but that success came with brand new problems. Not only did the app experience a 13-hour-long outage on launch day, but hundreds of thousands of users found themselves on a waitlist due to the high demand. Since then, interest has plummeted.
According to The Wrap, Truth Social only has 1.2 million installations and has seen massive drops in signups and traffic since February. The app is currently ranked #38 in the App Store’s “Social Networking” category, behind the likes of Facebook and Discord as well as GroupMe, Plenty of Fish Dating, and Yik Yak. (Truth Social is only available on iOS, but an Android version is in the works. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Truth Social doesn’t have a web version.)
Despite claims from TMTG CEO Devin Nunes that Truth Social would be “fully operational at least within the United States” by the end of March 2022, the aforementioned waitlist still exists. After I created my own Truth Social account, for instance, the app informed me that I was 1,472,478th in line. (My position remained unchanged even after several days.)
The Reviews Are (Slowly) Rolling In
That being said, Truth Social is technically public — for some, anyway — and users have begun posting their impressions.
Matt Binder notes the many obvious similarities to Twitter, Trump’s former platform of choice. Truth Social might look better than other right-affiliated platforms like Gettr and Parler, but the presence of some pretty major bugs indicates that it’s definitely still in beta. For example, a search for “Trump” brought up numerous fan accounts but no official Trump-related accounts. Even more pressing, though, the platform is surprisingly quiet, even boring:
If you’re not Trump or Dan Bongino or some other conservative influencer, you’re barely seeing any interaction on Truth Social. Even worse, these personalities are barely even acknowledging the people who are conversing in their replies.
Similarly, Rosie Bradbury describes Truth Social as “a conservative ghost town… overrun by bots.” Although Trump has an account, he’s only posted one “Truth” — the platform’s version of Tweets — to his 823,000 followers. (Before being banned, Trump had 88.9 million followers on Twitter). While major right-wing figures like Sean Hannity and Marjorie Taylor Greene are on Truth Social, there are some surprising absences, like Tucker Carlson. Even more interesting, Fox News doesn’t have an account. (Or maybe that’s not so interesting.)
Finally, Dana Milbank finds that Truth Social is awash in conspiracy theories, e.g., Ukrainian neo-Nazis stormed the Capitol on January 6 alongside the FBI, President Biden is laundering money through Ukraine, and Russia’s war crimes — like those in Bucha — were staged. After experiencing technical glitches and following suggested accounts like “Hot Chicks Golfing” and “Dr. Fauci Sucks” (and Kyle Rittenhouse), Milbank concludes that “the whole thing looks similar to Twitter, with ‘Truths’ instead of tweets; the only differences are the lack of functionality and users.”
At least one person was a bit more sanguine in their review, though. Scott Morefield tried the beta back in February, and while he notes the glitches, he also highlights the opportunity that Truth Social has — especially if they can get Trump to use it regularly. (For what it’s worth, I’ve had a hard time finding reviews of Truth Social from right-wing sources. Perhaps they’re all still on the waitlist.)
Another Broken Promise
Put simply, Truth Social is a laughingstock, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.
Several top executives recently quit, including the chief technology officer and head of product development, which is certain to hinder efforts to fix the platform’s bugs and engagement issues. Trump — who, I remind you, has used his own platform just once — is reportedly very upset and considering shaking things up, or even jumping ship to Gettr, which was created by Trump’s former spokesman, Jason Miller.
Given its awkward roll-out — which is made even more so by the fact that it raised $1 billion in funding — one can’t help thinking that Truth Social was only ever intended as a Trump vanity project, something to assuage his ego after it got bruised by Twitter. It was an opportunity for him to “take a stand” and rage against those who hurt him while also making big, lofty promises to his base. (Of course, we all know how good Trump is at keeping his promises.)
There’s no apparent vision behind Truth Social other than “make it like Twitter, but y’know, for Trump.” Except that Trump doesn’t even use the platform he once touted as a way to stand against “Big Tech” censorship. (Speaking of censorship, would it surprise you to learn that Truth Social’s moderation policies have been more strict than Twitter’s and you might get banned for having the wrong username?)
To be clear, Trump has every right to start his own platform. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly support efforts to become less reliant on Facebook, Twitter, and other “Big Tech” platforms, regardless of your politics. They might make it easier to share your thoughts online, connect with others, etc., but always remember this: the space they provide you is theirs, not yours. They ultimately control your content and how it’s seen, and they’ve consistently proven themselves to be less-than-trustworthy stewards. (Which is why having your own website is still important.)
Maybe Truth Social will turn things around. Maybe the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve signed up will actually to get use it. Maybe someday, Trump himself will actually use it. But as time goes on, it seems increasingly obvious that Truth Social won’t be that “rival to the liberal media consortium” that was promised last October. What’s far more likely is that it’ll become the latest in a long line of Trump boondoggles. One more lie amongst the tens of thousands. One more way that Donald Trump has failed those who still believe in him so ardently.