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Trump's Truth Social Plagued by Challenges: Everything You Need to Know

Photo illustration of Donald Trump and a phone screen showing his Truth Social app
Truth Social became available for download on Apple's App Store in February. 
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

What's happening

Trump's social media platform Truth Social has been plagued by several problems since its release in February.

Why it matters

The app's woes show how tough it is to launch an alternative to apps such as Facebook and Twitter, which booted Trump from its platforms last year over concerns about inciting violence in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots.

Donald Trump's social media platform Truth Social continues to face an uphill battle.

Reuters, which published a special report last week about the social media startup, outlined some of the company's biggest challenges as it tries to compete with tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter. Citing anonymous sources, the news outlet noted that Trump Media & Technology Group, or TMTG, has strayed away from corporate partners and employees in Silicon Valley, where many people have liberal views. A number of companies and workers also don't want to work with a business tied to Trump, the former US president, whose controversial remarks got him booted from social media platforms. 

In addition to the report, the company planning to merge with TMTG has come under more legal scrutiny. That firm, Digital World Acquisition Corp., revealed last week that a New York federal grand jury issued subpoenas in June to the company's board of directors and to TMTG. The court order asks for some of the same documents the US Securities and Exchange Commission has also requested.

TMTG didn't respond to a request for comment. The group said in a press release that it'll cooperate with oversight that supports the SEC and that its team is working "tirelessly to sustain Truth Social's rapid growth, onboard new users, and add new features."

Truth Social's February rollout was bumpy. Some people who downloaded the app saw error messages when they tried to create an account, while others were placed on a lengthy waitlist. Key executives have left the company. Truth Social topped Apple's charts for free apps several times, including the week in April that Elon Musk struck a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Since then, it's dropped in popularity. Last week, Truth Social was No. 31 in free social networking apps, but it's no longer ranked on the top free apps chart.

Truth Social could've given Trump, who was kicked off of Twitter and Facebook last year, a new social media megaphone. Truth Social's woes, though, have shown how tough it is to build an alternative to Twitter and Facebook. Truth Social's audience is much smaller than those of platforms like Facebook and Twitter that have been around for years. Trump had 89 million followers on Twitter and 34 million followers on Facebook. On Truth Social, he has 3.4 million followers. 

Here's what you need to know about Truth Social:

Why did Trump launch his own social media app?

Tech platforms such as Facebook and Twitter made the rare move last year to bar Trump, a sitting president, from its services because of concerns his remarks would incite more violence after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots. Trump used these social networks to push baseless claims of election fraud after Joe Biden won the 2020 US presidential election.

When these companies suspended Trump, the former US president also lost his ability to reach millions of people. 

In October 2021, TMGT announced it would launch a new social network, called Truth Social, that would roll out in the first quarter of 2022. 

"What makes Truth Social different!? We are a social media platform that is free from political discrimination," reads the app's description. Social media companies have long denied allegations that they intentionally censor conservative speech, noting that they have rules against hate speech and inciting violence. 

Trump has complained about the buggy rollout and why more people aren't using the app, The Daily Beast reported in March. Trump didn't share anything new on the app for two months, but he put up his second post in late April. 

"I'M BACK! #COVFEFE," the post said, along with a photo of the former US president. Covfefe is a reference to a typo Trump made in 2017 when he tweeted "Despite the constant negative press covfefe." The word appeared to be a misspelling of coverage.

Trump has been posting regularly on the platform where he's still pushing baseless election fraud claims.

While Musk said he would allow Trump back on Twitter, the former president told Fox News he doesn't plan to return to Twitter and instead will be using Truth Social.

How does Truth Social work?

Truth Social's look

Truth Social's design looks like Twitter's.

Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET

The app's design looks like a clone of Twitter. Users can create a profile that shows who they're following. You're able to comment, share and like posts, which are called Truths. The app includes a feed so you can read posts from other followers. Users can also share photos, news stories and video links. There's direct messaging, a dark mode and notifications as well.

App analytics firm SensorTower estimates Truth Social has been installed nearly 3 million times.

Is Truth Social just for conservatives?

Even though conservatives have been moving to alternatives outside of Facebook and Twitter such as Parler and Gettr, Truth Social doesn't describe itself as an app for conservatives. 

The app's description says it has a "big tent" approach, and it describes an outdoor event tent at a wedding filled with libertarians, conservatives and liberals. 

"Although we don't always agree with each other, we welcome these varied opinions and the robust conversation they bring," the description says. 

To use the app, you do have to be at least 18 years old. Truth Social also launched a web version, but the service isn't currently available on Android devices.

Can you say anything you want on Truth Social?

No. Like other social networks, the app has rules users agree to when they accept the app's terms of service.

One section, called prohibited activities, outlines everything users agree not to do. That includes tricking, defrauding or misleading the company and other users "especially in any attempt to learn sensitive account information such as user passwords" and filing "false reports of abuse or misconduct."

You also aren't allowed to impersonate other users or use any information obtained from the app to "harass, abuse or harm another person." In some cases, Truth Social's rules are more strict than Twitter's. For example, Twitter allows users to post pornography if the content is marked as sensitive, but Truth Social says sexual content or language isn't allowed.

User-generated content also can't be false, inaccurate or misleading or include threats of violence, according to Truth Social's terms of service. Apps such as Facebook and Twitter have similar rules, but users have disagreed with how the companies interpreted their policies. 

I downloaded Truth Social, but I can't log in. Why?

Truth Social app account created

Some people were placed on a lengthy waitlist to access Truth Social. 

Getty Images

TMTG didn't respond to questions about the app's status, but some people are still reporting that they're on a waitlist.

The app's rocky rollout also sparked concerns from privacy researchers.

"There is no better sign of a rushed implementation than the fact that you can't onboard anybody. So I'm hard-pressed to understand why anyone would trust that these people would keep their information safe," Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher, told The Washington Post.