Google notified Truth Social on August 19 that former President Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, as it now stands and operates, is inadmissible to the Google Play store.
What is Truth Social?
Truth Social is a social media platform created by Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), an American company founded in October 2021 by former President Donald Trump.
Trump announced on October 20, 2021, his intention to publicly list TMTG with the aim of “creat[ing] a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight[ing] back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.”
Truth Social’s U.S. ranking as of August 30 in Apple’s App Store was #148 overall and #25 in the social networking category.
The former president stated: “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech. We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced.”
Why specifically did Google bar it from the Google Play store?
The reason for this rejection, according to the tech giant, is that Truth Social’s current app submission violates the Google market’s standard policies and lacks “effective systems for moderating user-generated content.”
Axios first reported that Google’s concerns relate to unmoderated content such as physical threats and incitements to violence. Unlike other approved platforms, Truth Social does not apply “sensitive content” banners on or before posts that some might find objectionable, violence-inciting, or misleading. It also is alleged not to have as stringent an approach to moderation as other approved apps.
An example of a reply on Truth Social that would constitute infringement, cited by Axios, read: “It’s be nice if you people weren’t just okay with the military and police stage a rebellion and framing civilians. Zero people trust the police and if the military comes in, we’ll kill them. Someone admit this nation needs to be nuked because it’s satanic.”
The post, by Google’s standards, would have at least required a label such as “This content may not be suitable for all audiences.”
Truth Social acknowledged Google’s grievances and reportedly indicated it would work to address these issues. TMTG is working with a San Francisco-based company called Hive to develop AI-based content moderation tools to flag pornographic content along with hate speech and violent rhetoric.
Parler, another free speech-oriented social media app, was banned from the Google Play store in 2021 for reasons similar to those now being cited by Google for barring Truth Social.
Does the same standard of moderation apply to Facebook and Twitter?
In May 2022, the video filmed by the gunman who perpetrated a ghastly mass shooting in Buffalo was widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, despite the company’s moderation teams and policies. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul condemned the social media platforms responsible, without naming any one in particular: “They can be in a sense an accomplice to a crime like this. Perhaps not legally, but morally. They created the platform to allow this hate to be spewed.”
Elon Musk suggested earlier this year that Twitter was biased in its moderation, permitting what some have characterized as terroristic incitements and hate speech from leftist accounts.
Twitter also remained in the Google Play store despite permitting Taliban accounts on its platform.
Politico Europe reported last year that Islamic extremists manage to stay on Facebook, spreading extremist propaganda, photos of beheadings, and violent hate speech. Nevertheless, Facebook remains in the Google Play store.
What will the impact be?
Google’s barring of the app from its store may have financial and political consequences.
This setback could affect the platform’s momentum as TMTG is simultaneously being bogged down elsewhere.
Fox Business reported that one of TMTG’s vendors, RightForge, is pressing the company for $1.6 million for hosting services, which it allegedly has been due in installments since March.
Truth Social’s parent company, which filed a $6.5 million loss with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the first half of 2022, opens voting Tuesday on a potential yearlong delay for the merger between TMTG and the SPAC Digital World Acquisition Corp., which if successful, would have taken it public on September 8.
The platform also had its application for a trademark turned down earlier this month.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned issues, the company has suggested that dire pronouncements on Truth Social’s wellbeing are “knowingly false bar talk,” and that it has raised over $15 million and boasts enough operating capital to operate into the first quarter of 2023.
As for being denied access to the Play store, Truth Social may lose out on a massive influx of users. Approximately 44% of U.S. smartphone users won’t be able to download the app as a result of Google’s decision. Android users can, however, still access Truth Social directly through the platform’s website.
In 2021, Trump was banned from Twitter, where he had roughly 88 million followers, and was suspended from Facebook, where he has 34 million followers. He was also banned from Google’s YouTube, where he had over 2.77 million subscribers, on January 12, 2021. All three companies insinuated Trump had a role in the January 6 Capitol protests.
Trump presently has approximately 4 million followers on Truth Social.
Google’s decision may greatly contain the former president’s reach and influence ahead of the 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections.