The Hindu Profiles | On Western Ghats, Truth Social and Osman Kavala

Truth Social | The Trump network

Former US President Donald Trump points to the crowd as he arrives for his campaign-style rally in Wellington, Ohio, on June 26, 2021. - Donald Trump held his first big campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, giving a vintage, rambling speech Saturday to an adoring audience as he launched a series of appearances ahead of next year's midterm elections. The former president, who has been booted from social media platforms and faces multiple legal woes, has flirted with his own potential candidacy in 2024, but in the 90-minute address at a fair grounds in Ohio he made no clear mention of his political future, even when the crowd chanted "four more years! four more years!" (Photo by STEPHEN ZENNER / AFP)  

Last December, with just about a month to go for Donald Trump’s presidential stint to end, CNN highlighted a much-debated aspect of his presidency with data points. It said, Mr. Trump “has tweeted more than 25,000 times — an average of 18 times per day — since taking office in January 2017.” It added: “His longest break from Twitter was just 1.9 days without tweeting in June 2017, when former FBI Director James Comey was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee during the Russia investigation.”

Mr. Trump, who as President controversially used Twitter to make big policy announcements and take on his opponents, had an abrupt end to his social media innings just a few weeks later. Major social media platforms banned him permanently for his posts during the January 6 violence in Capitol Hill.

New innings

Now, after nearly 10 months of relative silence, Mr. Trump is all set to begin his social media innings afresh. His vehicle of re-entry will be called TRUTH Social, a product from his own Trump Media & Technology Group (the group is merging with the listed Digital World Acquisition Corp). In a press release, Mr. Trump has been quoted as saying, “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable.”

A few months ago, Mr. Trump filed lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook, Google, and their CEOs, for violating the right of freedom of speech.

His site elaborates on the vision: “In the year 2021, the media pendulum has swung dangerously to the left. Silicon Valley, the mainstream media, and Big Tech have begun to forcibly silence voices that do not align with their woke ideology.”

TRUTH Social has been presented as a counter to this. It comes with a promise of no discrimination based on political ideology. But what has quickly caught the attention of media outlets is a ‘Terms of Service’ clause that says users shall not “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site”, which they say is a first for any social media platform. A beta launch of TRUTH Social for invited guests will happen next month. And a U.S. national roll-out is slated for the first quarter of 2022. Posts will be called Truths, and “excessive use of capital letters” won’t be allowed.

From a business point of view, the stated idea is to tap the vast following that Mr. Trump has. When he was offloaded from Twitter, Mr. Trump had over 88 million followers in the platform. His stint as President has also been characterised as a period of ‘Trump Bump’, which created intense news cycles and largely benefited news outlets and social media platforms. A cartoon that epitomised his fascination for tweeting pictures his work table having the ‘tweet’ button alongside the ‘nuke’ button.

Long accused of making unsubstantiated comments on social media platforms, Mr. Trump saw the rules catch up with him only at the fag end of his presidency though some interventions such as ‘fact check’ labels did come along in between. The tipping point was the violence in Capitol Hill in which five lives were lost. Mr. Trump’s posts, which repeatedly asserted that the 2020 elections, in which he lost to Joe Biden, was stolen, was seen fuelling the protests. He has been banned from many social media networks ever since.

Alternative platforms

Toward the end of his presidency, though, the growing tensions between him and the big social platforms put the spotlight on alternative platforms that attracted conservative users. Alternatives like Parler and Gab did emerge but they have faced troubles due to lax moderation.

TRUTH Social has quickly triggered a slew of news items about itself, not just about it coming into being. AFP reported that the value of shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp, which is merging with Trump Media & Technology Group, has risen more than nine times in two days. There is also an accusation by the Software Freedom Conservancy, which has said that Mr. Trump’s new network has violated a licence agreement. Not just that. A test version of the site was defaced.

More than just being another social media network, it might be the vehicle that keeps Mr. Trump politically relevant.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 8:09:25 AM |

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