What is Truth Social, Donald Trump’s social media platform?

Former President Donald Trump launched his social media platform, Truth Social, in early 2022, after he was banned from major sites such as Facebook and the platform formerly known as Twitter following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While he’s since been reinstated to both, he’s mostly stayed off X, the Elon Musk-owned platform that was once his primary megaphone. On Facebook, meanwhile, his posts are largely videos and images with slogans and messages like “THANK YOU, MISSOURI! Together, WE are going to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”

That’s unlikely to change even as the Trump Media & Technology Group, which runs Truth Social, is expected to start trading on the NASDAQ stock market soon. That’s if a shareholder vote Friday approves a deal to merge it with Digital World Acquisition Corp. — a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, also referred to as a blank check company.

Here are some things to know about Trump’s social media platform and where it fits into the broader social media landscape.

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Before Truth Social, there was a short-lived blog on Trump’s personal website called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.” But it didn’t last long, and Trump’s camp was already hinting that the former president had a social media platform in the works.

Truth Social launched in the Apple App store in February 2022. It was a glitchy start, but it shot to the top of Apple’s list of most downloaded free apps. While the platform sought to capitalise on the outrage over Trump’s social media bans to attract a broad audience, Truth Social, much like fellow right-leaning social media platforms Gettr and Parler, has not been able to move much beyond an echo chamber of conservative political commentary — if they are able to stay online in the first place.

“It is marketed in opposition to mainstream media apps, which Trump and his supporters allege discriminate against their views and limit free expression. Its content and audience are overwhelmingly conservative and made up of the MAGA base,” said Roxana Muenster, a doctoral student at Cornell University who studies the far-right and digital communication. “There is also a lot of hate speech and extremism on the platform due to their lax approach to content moderation.”

The company behind Truth Social doesn’t disclose user numbers. As it lays out in a regulatory filing, “since its inception, TMTG has focused on developing Truth Social by enhancing features and user interface rather than relying on traditional performance metrics like average revenue per user, ad impressions and pricing, or active user accounts, including monthly and daily active users.”

Nonetheless, research firm Similarweb estimates that Truth Social had roughly 5 million active users in February of this year — including mobile users as well as website visitors. That compares with more than 2 billion for TikTok and more than 3 billion for Facebook, for instance, by Meta’s own reporting. However, the site fares better than rivals in the so-called “alt-tech” space, such as Parler, which just returned to Apple’s app store this week after being offline for more than a year, or Gettr, which had less than 2 million visitors in February.

Trump reaches far fewer people on his platform, where he has less than 7 million followers, than he might on X, where he boasts 87 million.

“It’s unlikely that Truth Social will rival mainstream social media platforms any time soon. For many users, Trump is what draws them to Truth Social. For many more, it’s what keeps them away,” Muenster said. “But more importantly, it will be hard for it to rival X because of the way platforms work. Social networks benefit from scale: The more users are on one platform, the more it increases in value — that is called network effects.”

Truth Social looks and feels a bit like X. Users have a profile, they can follow one another, post “truths” or “retruths” and send direct messages. Ads are called “sponsored truths.”

To sign up, Truth Social asks for an email address and phone number. Users have to agree to receive text messages from it before they can complete the signup process. This is uncommon for social media companies looking to attract as many people as possible, since it may turn off some potential users. And unlike mainstream social media companies, which allow teenagers to sign up, Truth Social requires users to be at least 18 — though it does not verify ages.

Truth Social’s feed looks much like X’s, with a purple color scheme and a “for you” section of recommended posts as well as a feed of accounts a user follows. There’s an abundance of conservative-leaning political posts, voices of support for Trump, railing against immigration and President Joe Biden.

As part of an agreement that runs until February 2025, Trump has agreed to wait six hours after posting on Truth Social before he can post any “non-political communications” on other social media platforms

However, this is at the former president’s sole discretion, and as the company notes in a regulatory filing, as “a candidate for president, most or all of President Trump’s social media posts may be deemed by him to be politically related.”

Newer social media apps targeting conservative users, including Truth Social, Parler and Gab, haven’t come remotely close to matching the success of Facebook or X. That’s partly because Republican politicians and causes already draw large audiences on existing, better established platforms, so they see little reason to move to a new service.

A 2022 Pew Research Center survey — the most recent one available — found that while 27% of Americans had heard of Truth Social, only 2% used it to get their news. Still, the site fared better than rival conservative-leaning apps. It was second only to Parler, which was temporarily taken offline following the January 6 attack.

Truth Social says it encourages an “open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating on the basis of political ideology.” But while it has touted minimal content moderation, a 2022 report from the nonprofit Public Citizen found that early users experienced “bans after selecting usernames or authoring posts that made fun of or criticized the former president and his allies.”

Muenster notes that while it is marketed as a free expression platform, Truth Social still engages in some content moderation, including limiting illegal or copyrighted material. It’s also stricter on sexual content and language than other platforms, she said.

“Their policy also leaves a lot of room for the company to decide which other type of content they deem inappropriate. And they have made use of that, with reports that they banned accounts that tweeted about the Jan. 6th investigation and parody accounts who were accused of impersonating others,” Muenster said.

Private companies are accountable to their owners, while public companies are accountable to the shareholders who own the company’s stock. Once it goes public, TMTG will be required to report its quarterly finances as well as other material news to the Securities and Exchange Commission. While at the outset, Trump will hold the majority of its stock, should he decide to sell them, the company’s stock will be subject to the whims of Wall Street, with investors looking for healthy finances and growth.

In this sense, Truth Social faces some of the same problems that X has been contending with — mainstream advertisers who don’t want to be associated with hate speech and other controversial content.

“X is also in a precarious situation, but the users who leave X because of its new owner’s online activity or political views are more likely to choose one of the many other platforms trying to take X’s place, such as BlueSky or Meta’s Threads, than a platform owned by a politician whose views and activity they also deem problematic,” Muenster said. “But if this deal goes through, Truth Social will have to answer to investors, investors who will want their investment to pay off. For this to happen, the platform will have to attract more users. It will be interesting to see how they attempt to go about this.”

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