Despite a Rocky Launch, Trump’s Truth Social Is a Powerful Force
Whether you love or hate Trump, you’d be wrong to dismiss his new app
On President’s Day 2022, Truth Social, a new social media platform promoted by former US President Donald Trump, officially launched on the Apple App Store. From the moment it went live, the app seemed to mirror its creator. Truth Social enjoyed tremendous popularity, made grandiose claims, showed concerning structural weaknesses, and even got in some legal trouble. Still, like Trump himself, Truth’s potential impact is great enough that you’d be wrong to dismiss the app.
Truth Social has been in the works for over a year. Ever since Donald Trump was kicked off major social platforms like Twitter and Facebook for allegedly inciting the January 6th insurrection, he’s been plotting a comeback on a platform of his own. To build that platform, the former President’s Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) reportedly raised at least $1.25 billion as of December 2021, with plans to go public via a SPAC merger. (These are reportedly under regulatory investigation).
An Open Source Base
It’s unclear how much of that money TMTG spent to build Truth Social. The company’s mission includes “canceling cancel culture” and “standing up to big tech.” Truth Social is certainly a piece of that, but TMTG is also developing other brands, like a planned conservative news site.
Strangely, to build Truth Social, TMTG didn’t create their own social network codebase. Instead, they relied on code from Mastodon, an open-source social networking platform. That caused a row, as Mastodon’s code is available under the AGPLV3 license, which requires derivative projects to also share their source code, something which TMTG didn’t initially do. Under pressure from industry groups, TMTG did eventually release a ZIP file of its purported source code, although the file was reportedly only 30 megabytes in size. It’s unclear exactly what it contains, or whether it will be updated over time as Truth’s codebase expands.
In any event, the use of open-source software to build Truth Social feels like an odd choice. Building on Mastodon’s codebase potentially hinders Truth, in that it will presumably always…