Truth Social, Donald Trump’s new social media network, was supposed to be “a major new platform” where Republicans and Democrats alike could converse in an environment free from the “censorship” of big tech, an environment with an “ironclad commitment to protecting vigorous debate”.
Instead, nearly a month after its launch, Truth Social has become a laughingstock, marked by a botched rollout, a share price collapse and, in Trump, a figurehead who doesn’t actually post much to his own social media platform.
The network, born out of Trump being banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube due to the risk of the former president inciting violence, was due to launch on 21 February, five months after Trump announced its creation in a typically hyperbolic statement.
“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,” Trump said.
“I’m excited to soon begin sharing my thoughts on TRUTH Social and to fight back against Big Tech.”
When the launch date came round, however, tens of thousands of people were unable to access Truth Social. The Guardian attempted to sign up on 21 February and was finally granted access on 5 March.
And almost a month after the launch, Trump has so far shared only one thought to the platform; a boilerplate message in mid-February urging people to “Get ready!”.
Unsurprisingly, Trump is said to be unhappy with his new social media network. According to the Daily Beast, people close to Trump “have heard the former president on the phone swearing gratuitously and asking things like: ‘What the fuck is going on’” with Truth Social.
Trump is said to be particularly piqued by the sluggish rollout – some would-be Truth Social users are still waiting to get on to the platform – and upset that Truth Social is not more popular.
The former president’s anger is not unfounded. In early March the network was averaging just 300,000 visits each day, according to the Daily Beast. Truth Social spent 21-23 February as the most downloaded app on the Apple app store, according to Similarweb, but by 12 March it was only the 173rd most popular app.
But the problems with Truth Social go deeper than the fact that barely anyone uses it.
At the time of writing, there is no way to use Truth Social on a webpage, with a user forced to download the app to their phone. That only works, however, if they have an iPhone, because Truth Social is not yet available as a Google app. Shared links to individual Truth Social posts bring up an error message.
The site itself is barely distinguishable from Twitter, one of the “tech titans” that Trump railed against when he launched Truth Social. Posts on the platform are called “truths”, and when visiting people’s profiles, users can see their “truths and replies” – Twitter enables people to view “tweets and replies”.
Unlike Twitter, the Truth Social app is sluggish, while the list of profiles suggested to new users is thin at best – largely because, as Politico reported: “Many major players in the conservative world aren’t on the app.”
The missing major players appear to include the rightwing media figures Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson, as well as Trump’s sometime lawyer Rudy Giuliani. (There is a @RudyGiuliani account on TruthSocial, but it has just 35 followers and is unverified.)
The big-name conservatives who have joined don’t seem to be seeing much reward. According to Truth Social Sean Hannity has 266,000 on the platform, but the Fox News host’s “truths” are struggling for engagement. Hannity posted several truths on Tuesday morning; more than four hours later one post had been liked by 10 people, another by just nine.
Trump’s one truth has been liked 86,000 times, and received 13,000 replies, although many of those appear to be spam postings advertising a niche conservative cryptocurrency.
There is little evidence of political diversity on Truth Social, despite Trump’s promise that the platform would be a “big tent” filled with people of “all political stripes, and all different viewpoints”. Whether an echo chamber of rightwing voices proves an attractive proposition to Truth Social’s users remains to be seen.
But while Trump lovers might be willing to put up with a clunky, Twitter-aping platform, and – to date – a dearth of content, a bigger problem might be that Truth Social is far from the free speech utopia Trump promised.
“We find ourselves being censored and dictated to by a small group of self-righteous scolds and self-appointed arbiters of what everyone else is allowed to think, say, share, and do,” Trump said in a press release in October.
“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’.”
But a review of Truth Social’s terms of service reveals a comprehensive list of things people can and cannot do and say on the platform.
Users’ posts should not contain “profanity, or abusive or racist, language”, according to Truth Social’s rules. Posts should also “not contain discriminatory references based on religion, race, gender, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability”.
Truth Social also reserves the right to “refuse, restrict access to, limit the availability of, or disable” anyone’s posts. People should also not make contributions which are “false, inaccurate, or misleading”, which could prove a problem for a site founded by a man who continues to lie about the accuracy of the 2020 presidential election.
To Truth Social’s credit, however, its terms of service do provide an avenue for users to get in touch, should they have any issue with these draconian rules.
Truth Social even provides a physical address where users can direct their complaints, and it seems that those complaints will go right to the top. The address is in Palm Beach, Florida, at 1100 South Ocean Blvd. Specifically, it is the address of Mar-a-Lago, the private members club and vacation resort where Trump has lived since leaving the White House.