Former President Donald Trump released his new, alternative social media app this past Monday, February 21. The app is ironically named “Truth Social,” an interesting choice considering he has had a copious number of posts removed from social media for misinformation identified by independent fact checkers. His posts, filled with misleading or false information, contributed to the Capitol riot which shook the nation’s sense of democracy. Despite this, he created a social media app with the subcaption “Follow the Truth.”
After being suspended on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitch, the former president took things into his own hands with his new project. The app, owned by Trump Media and Technology Group — an initiative started by Trump after the end of his presidency — functions similar to Twitter and is available on the App Store. Just as Twitter’s posts are referred to as “tweets” and “retweets,” the Truth app posts are meant to be referred to as “truths” and “retruths.”
His app is not the only one trying to take advantage of the conservative market for social media. Apps, notably Rumble, Parler and Gettr — where Trump is not banned — are meant to be safe havens for conservative thought. Unsurprisingly, conservatives’ complaints regarding cancel culture and censorship have led to a completely new and unique tech market: conservative social media.
The idea of a separate social media for those at each side of the US political spectrum is striking evidence of two things. First, it reveals just how polarized we are: hiding behind a screen is not enough, and so an entirely new app must be composed to create safe harbor for the ramblings of the far right. Second, it shows the evolution of the word “truth” into something that lacks any sense of integrity. The idea of “alternative truths” is truly coming to fruition in apps like Truth Social, where ideas that would not be accepted as truthful on any other platform can be shared.
While the app bills itself as free from political discrimination, it’s pretty debatable whether Twitter discriminated against the political right or simply against misinformation itself. The conflation of political censorship with removal of dangerous fallacies seems a pressing issue in the ever-widening political divide. “Truth Social” is based on the concept of free speech, one of the indisputable aspects of the Constitution. However, speech is not protected by the First Amendment if the speaker intends to incite a violation of the law, as Trump did when he helped to incite the Capitol riots.
From a business perspective, it makes sense for Trump to capitalize on the anger of his followers, but the homogeneity of the app’s content should, hypothetically, lead to its long-term failure. With no dissenting voices, Truth Social will be little more than an echo chamber. Let’s face it: the most rampant social media conversations are arguments between opposition, not between two people who agree with each other, screaming “yeah!” over and over again.
Though the app is a clear symbol of our current political divide, its terms of service are what truly reveal its innately ridiculous nature. For an app that is completely based on the concept of freedom of speech, it does include one anecdote that can lead to censorship: “to disparage, tarnish or otherwise harm the backers of the site.” Translation: you can say whatever you want—as long as you don’t make fun of Trump.
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