Trump's Truth Social Sees Uptick in Users After FBI's Mar-a-Lago Search

The average number of app downloads per day from Aug. 8-15 was more than five times the number the previous week.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
5 min read
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

Donald Trump's social media platform, Truth Social, saw an uptick in downloads after the FBI searched the former US president's Mar-a-Lago home on Aug. 8.

Mobile and data analytics firm data.ai, formerly App Annie, said Truth Social had a total of 107,500 global downloads from Aug. 8 to Aug. 15. Truth Social had an average of 13,400 downloads per day during that time period, which was more than five times the number of average downloads the app saw from July 31 to Aug. 7.

The numbers show how Truth Social has been faring since its bumpy launch in February. As of Friday, the app was No. 25 on Apple's charts for free social networking apps. Trump -- who was kicked off Facebook and Twitter following the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021 -- has been using the app to share his thoughts about the FBI's court-approved search of his residence, part of an investigation reportedly into the handling of confidential government documents. The app's users have also called for violence and civil war after the search, a problem that US lawmakers are urging social networks including Truth Social to address.

Truth Social has faced an uphill battle since its launch. Reuters published a special report in late June about the social media startup, outlining 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 avoided 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, 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, and key executives have left. 

Truth Social's February rollout has been plagued with technical problems as well. Some people who downloaded the app saw error messages when they tried to create an account, while others were placed on a lengthy waitlist. 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. Twitter and Musk are currently in a legal battle after he tried to back out of the deal.

Truth Social could've given Trump 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 3.9 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's been posting regularly on the platform where he's still pushing baseless election fraud claims and his thoughts about the FBI search.

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.

The app is available on Apple devices but started pre-registration for the Android version.

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.