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Trump's Truth Social app faces conservative criticism for censorship as it surges in popularity
Story on the Washington Examiner website here: Truth Social faces conservative criticism for censorship as it surges in popularity
Former President Donald Trump's new social media app, Truth Social, is surging with new users but facing criticism from some conservatives for censorship.
The conservatives say Truth Social, which has billed itself as a free-speech alternative to Big Tech platforms, has some of the same problems with content moderation and data privacy that led them to seek alternatives to companies such as Facebook and Twitter.
A right-wing broadcaster who has pushed conspiracy theories about the coronavirus in recent months was censored for posting what the platform classified as "sensitive content." Another user has been banned from the app for creating an account that made fun of Devin Nunes, the CEO of Trump Media and Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social.
Conservative personality and radio host Stew Peters complained his speech was suppressed by having a “Show Content” label placed on one of his posts on Truth Social, forcing users to click to see his content.
“I’m ALREADY being censored on Truth Social,” Peters said on Telegram, another free speech-focused social media platform.
“I said, ‘The people in our government responsible for allowing our kids to be killed with these dangerous Covid shots, should be put on trial and executed,'” Peters said, along with a screenshot of his post on Truth Social. “Free speech isn’t free."
Truth Social was the most downloaded free app on Apple’s app store earlier this week, with nearly 400,000 people receiving notices they were on a waitlist upon trying to sign up.
Nunes said Thursday that Truth Social's top priority is bringing people on to the platform's app as soon as possible.
Since its launch on Sunday, Truth Social has also been plagued by sign-up errors and delays, with many users being unable to create an account successfully or receiving confusing error messages.
A Truth Social user who attempted to register an account intended to make fun of Nunes with a new account titled '@DevinNunesCow' was outright banned from the platform.
The account name was a reference to a satirical Twitter account called "Devin Nunes’ cow," created by web developer and internet personality Matt Ortega, which gained notoriety and a large following on the platform after Nunes sued the account for defamation in 2019.
Ortega tried to create a Truth Social account that also pretended to be Nunes's cow but was removed from the platform for doing so.
“I may be the first officially ‘cancelled’ Truth Social user,” Ortega said on Twitter.
Truth Social said his account was permanently deleted because the account name violated its social community guidelines.
"This is censorship," Ortega tweeted.
Trump — removed from almost every major social media platform, including Facebook and Twitter, following his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol — announced he was creating Truth Social last October as an alternative to the Big Tech companies and to promote free speech.
Thus far, social media platforms popular with right-leaning users, such as GETTR and Parler, have had difficulties attracting a more mainstream user base as they try to expand, a major obstacle to conservatives hoping to end the liberal chokehold on social media.
Conservatives have pointed out that Truth Social’s content moderation policies are significantly stricter than Twitter's and are not free speech-oriented.
Unlike Twitter, Truth Social users can get suspended or kicked off the platform for posting content that moderators consider to be false, defamatory, or misleading.
"It isn't a censorship-free experience at all, it’s rank hypocrisy to ban the DevinNunesCow account," said Patrick Hedger, executive director of the conservative Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
"I think they should abide by how they advertise themselves as a censorship-free platform or recognize that striking a balance between free speech and palatable consumer content is not easy, as other platforms have realized," Hedger added.
Truth Social also faces data privacy concerns because it uses software code from eight external development teams to handle data, images, security, and text, its website shows.
“There is no better sign of a rushed implementation than the fact that you can’t onboard anybody," privacy researcher Bill Fitzgerald told the Washington Post. "So I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would trust that these people would keep their information safe."