Explained: Why is Trump launching his own social media platform and how will it work?

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More than a year after he was banned from virtually every major social media platform, former US President Donald Trump is soon set to launch his own social media app — Truth Social. Weeks ahead of the new app’s expected release date, Trump kicked things off with a characteristically hyperbolic post: “Get ready! Your favourite president will see you soon.”

When Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, shared a screenshot of the former president’s first post on Twitter earlier this week, one thing stood out — the interface bore a striking resemblance to that of Twitter.

When Trump first announced the app in October last year, he said that the aim was to create a rival for the Big Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, which had silenced him following the attack on the US Capitol building by some of his supporters last year.

So, why is Trump launching his own social media platform?

After his social media handles were suspended, Trump essentially declared war on Big Tech. In a statement released last year, the president announced that he was launching his own social media platform to stand up to the “tyranny of the tech giants” who have “used their unilateral power to silence dissenting voices in America”.

Developed by the Trump Media & Technology Group, the platform seeks to promote open and free conversation. The new platform comes at a time when the right-wing social media landscape in the US is rapidly expanding, with Twitter alternatives like Parler, Gab and GETTR quickly gaining prominence.

Like with Parler, Trump’s new platform is likely to attract many of his supporters, several of whom are convinced that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US elections was the result of electoral fraud. Trump has also been vocal about his desire to run for president once again in 2024. If that happens, Truth Social is likely to be his platform of choice to communicate with his supporters.

During his tenure as president, Trump racked up over 20,000 tweets — using the microblogging site as a way of bypassing traditional media.

How does Truth Social work?

The app’s developers have said that the platform will follow a ‘Big Tent’ approach. Its description on Apple’s App Store reads: “Think of a giant outdoor event tent at your best friend’s wedding. Who’s there? The combination of multiple families from all over the United States, and the world.”

The posts, which will be known as ‘truths’, look almost exactly like tweets, with buttons to reply, share and like right underneath. The app allows users to follow other people and trending topics. According to screenshots of Trump’s account on the social media site, he joined on February 10 and already has about 175 followers.

The Beta version of the app was released in December last year, with a few people granted early access. The app was earlier meant to be released on February 21, the US Presidents Day, but its launch was later pushed to March, TIME reported.

At the moment, the app is not available on the App Store in India. It is still unclear whether it will be limited to US residents only.

Initial hurdles

Soon after Trump announced the platform last year, several trolls signed up for the beta version and were able to set up fake Trump accounts that they used to share memes.

The platform has also had to tackle some licensing issues. Powered by an open-source software called Mastodon, the platform violated the software’s policy by failing to give it credit anywhere on the site, Mashable reported. The issue was later resolved.

Why was Trump banned from Twitter and Facebook in the first place?

A day after a mob of angry and armed Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill in Washington DC on January 6 last year, Facebook announced that it will block Trump from all its platforms. Soon after, Twitter followed suit.

In a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg, the tech giant’s CEO, had said that “we believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely…”.

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