Fake news alert! Donald Trump’s new social media app is a triumph | Arwa Mahdawi3 min read
Truth hurts, everyone knows that. Nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting my experience with Truth Social, Donald Trump’s new social media venture, to be quite so painful. After months of fanfare, the former president’s new app, which is essentially a Twitter clone, was opened to the US public on Sunday night. Obviously, I signed up straight away – or at least I tried to.
I spent 20 frustrating minutes attempting to create a new account and getting error message after error message. Eventually, I managed to sign up with the username @stormyd, only to be told that I had been put on a waiting list “due to massive demand”. I was number 194,276 in line, apparently. Which, I’m sure, is a very precise number and not something they just pulled out of the air.
It is unclear how many people were actually successful at getting on Truth Social – although the Guardian has reported that at least one Catholic priest managed to join. The fact that you, apparently, needed God on your side to secure an account wasn’t the only issue with the launch: the app has also run into potential legal trouble. It turns out Truth Social may not have just taken inspiration from Twitter, the app’s logo looks suspiciously like that of a British solar power startup called Trailar. “Great to see Donald Trump supporting a growing sustainability business!” Trailar tweeted on Monday. “Maybe ask next time?”
If Trump’s new app failed to successfully launch on time, it would hardly be the surprise of the century. The last time he made a lot of noise about launching a new media platform, it turned out to be an underwhelming blog, which shuttered after just a few weeks. It’s not as if Trump put a technological genius in charge of Truth Social: Devin Nunes, head honcho at the app’s parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), may be most famous for the fact that he once unsuccessfully sued a cow.
In 2019, Nunes, who used to be a Republican congressman, filed a $250m lawsuit against Twitter and two parody Twitter accounts: one was called “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and one was called “Devin Nunes’ Cow”. This is no laughing matter, I’ll have you know. The cow was very mean to him: it called the politician a “treasonous cowpoke” whose “boots are full of manure”. It was all very hard for the poor man, whose lawsuit claimed that the parody accounts subjected him to a “defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope, one that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life”.
Nunes doesn’t just have beef with cows, by the way. He’s a big fan of suing anyone who says anything mean to him, and has launched defamation lawsuits against a number of journalists. He managed to juggle all these lawsuits with his political career for a while but, in December, announced he was leaving Congress to join TMTG. “The time has come to reopen the internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship,” he proclaimed. Unless cows are involved, obviously. No free speech or free flow of ideas for cows! Or pesky journalists. Or anyone who says anything unflattering, if we’re being honest.
Truth Social’s marketing material talks about welcoming diverse opinions but the app’s terms and conditions are rather more restrictive. Under “prohibited activities”, the rules state that users of the site agree not to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site”.
A cynic might wonder whether the fact that you are not allowed to say mean things about Trump on his app may factor in why Melania doesn’t appear to be a big fan of her husband’s latest venture. A couple of weeks ago, you see, the former first lady entered into a “special arrangement” to share “exclusive communications” with the conservative social media app Parler. Why would she announce an exclusive relationship with a direct competitor to Truth Social shortly before it launched ? I’m not even going to begin to speculate. The truth is out there, but there’s a very long waiting list to get to it.