Downloads of Donald Trump’s TRUTH Social app spiked after the former president made an appearance on the struggling platform with a series of tirades in protest of the January 6 hearings. But the pace of TRUTH’s growth—and its impact—could depend on whether Trump continues to post regularly on the network.
Trump began posting information about the hearings in June 9, when a congressional committee convened its first public session to examine the incident. According to TIME data.ai, TRUTH Social Downloads increased by 185% in the following day compared with the average over the previous seven days.
On TRUTH Social, Trump referred to the bipartisan proceedings as a “one sided, totally partisan, POLITICAL WITCH HUNT,” repeated false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen,” and denied expressing support for chants to “hang Mike Pence.”
Trump created the Twitter-like platform in Fall 2021 under the umbrella of his new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), but posted a single introductory “TRUTH” in February and nothing else—until about a month ago. He is now posting more often, sometimes multiple times per day.
A small number of his comments regarding the January 6 hearings will be shared. While TRUTH social downloads spiked in June 10th, TRUTH has had 2.6 million lifetime Downloads as of June 13th. Twitter, by comparison, had 229,000,000 active users daily in the first quarter 2022.
The impact of Trump’s words will hinge on how far they spread outside of TRUTH Social, says Jonathan Nagler, co-director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics. “It’s what happens off of TRUTH Social,” he says. “Because the membership numbers on the platform are still not doing for him what Twitter was doing for him.”
Trump’s following on TRUTH Social has grown to 3.27 million users, but remains a fraction of the size of the following of more than 80 million he had on Twitter before being permanently banned in January 2021 “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”Following the attack at the Capitol. False claims of election fraud have been a major theme of Trump’s posts on TRUTH Social since he returned to the site last month. He also posts about various topics, including the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial and ongoing congressional primaries.
TRUTH is the problem
TRUTH Social’s February 2022 launch has seen many problems. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission extended its probe into Monday’s planned merger between TMTG and Digital World Acquisition Corp.. This special purpose acquisition company was set to make TMTG publicly. The SEC is seeking “additional documents and information” regarding a previously disclosed probe into whether or not DWAC and TMTG negotiated terms before DWAC officially went public. DWAC’s stock has subsequently dropped by over 32% this week.
It claims to be a place for freedom of speech. Meanwhile, TRUTH Social users say they’ve been suspended from the platform for sharing information about the Jan. 6 hearings. Travis Allen is an Information Security Analyst in Kentucky. wrote on Twitter on June 9 that his TRUTH Social account had been permanently suspended for “talking about” the hearings and shared a screenshot from the TRUTH Social app backing up his claim. Allen spoke to the Washington Post that he was suspended from TRUTH Social shortly after replying to Trump’s account with a reference to the first hearing. “It is the height of hypocrisy for TRUTH Social to claim to support ‘free speech’ and then ban users for talking about [the hearings],” he said.
Since TRUTH Social’s terms of service state that it “may accept, reject, or remove Interactive Content in our sole discretion,” Nagler says the company appears to have “carte blanche” to suspend anyone it wants from the platform. “They prohibit false, inaccurate, or misleading comments,” Nagler says. “Obviously this begs the question of who is the arbiter of what is false, inaccurate, and misleading. And we know that the people who set up TRUTH Social seem to believe that anyone who says there was no election fraud is making a false comment.”
TRUTH Social is just one of the many social media platforms which have grown in popularity as established companies increase their content moderation.
TRUTH Social did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment. TRUTH Social has been plagued by technical problems, outages, long waiting lists, and other issues. The company lost two of its key executives in early April: Josh Adams, chief technology officer and Billy Boozer head, product development.
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