Truth Social, the right-wing social network, has seen business disaster after business disaster since it launched in February. Two executives resigned after the app’s launch was riddled with problems. Another executive was fired after filing a whistleblower complaint alleging that Truth’s parent company relied on “fraudulent misrepresentations.” Two federal investigations jeopardize much-needed $1.3 billion in funding.
But the users who logged into Truth Social every day saw something very different during that time: a vibrant right-wing ecosystem increasingly teeming with activity.
Truth Social’s long-term future remains in doubt, but experts say the app has been gaining traction in conservative circles even ahead of the midterm elections.
Much of this is thanks to former President Donald J. Trump, one of the app’s founders and its star, who now uses Truth Social as his main megaphone for the world. His posts on the site reach more than four million followers and regularly resonate with mainstream news and social media sites.
He is now run by a coalition of right-wing Americans, including conservative celebrities like Dan Bongino, the radio host and TV commentator; political arsonists like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene; and a constellation of conspiracy theory peddlers, far-right influencers, and ordinary voters.
According to estimates by Similar Web, a company that monitors web traffic, the site had 1.7 million unique visitors as of September. That’s hardly any competition to mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter. But it towers above its closest social media competitors, including Gab, Parler, Gettr, MeWe, and Minds, which averaged about 360,000 unique visitors this month.
“How many of you are on Truth Social?” Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Arizona governor who has repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of the election, said at a recent rally. The crowd erupted in applause. “If you’re not there, go there and hop in quickly.”
The site has become an important organizing platform for voter refusers ahead of the midterm elections, fueling concerns about voter fraud and spreading rumors of electoral troubles. One group used the site to promote ballot box staking in searches for illegal elections and posted an image on Truth that went viral and helped spur similar efforts in at least 10 states.
Mr Trump has used the website as a public sounding board for his legal defense as multiple investigations surround him. He has continued to shape Republican talking points and backed candidates in tight races. And he’s accepted messages and images from QAnon, the conspiracy theory movement that’s also found a new home on Truth Social.
“I definitely see Truth Social as a place where these different factions grow together,” said Josephine Lukito, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in the Austin School of Journalism and Media, who studies the relationship between disinformation and violence. “Both the more traditional Republicans, who are Trump supporters, as well as the more far-right, extremist, and conspiratorial.”
The real test for Truth Social could come in the coming months, as initial excitement around the app wanes and problems with its funding may come to a head. The site shows few signs of wooing a broader mix of users from across the political spectrum, which would be necessary to achieve the lofty goals the company set before launching the app.
Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter
A blockbuster deal. In April, Elon Musk made an unsolicited offer worth $44 billion for the social media platform, saying he wants to turn Twitter into a private company and allow people to speak more freely about the service. This is how the following month-long struggle went:
The site’s parent company, Trump Media and Technology Group, is pinning its hopes on a deal announced a year ago with Digital World Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company that raised $300 million in a stock IPO. The company later secured commitments from three dozen hedge funds to provide $1 billion in additional funding once the merger was complete.
But the deal, and that $1.3 billion, is now in doubt as investigations by federal prosecutors and securities regulators could force Digital World to go into liquidation in early December and return the money raised from its IPO to shareholders, sending the merger into a dead end brings. Digital World is struggling to get its shareholders to agree to a measure that would give it until next September to complete its merger with Trump Media. The SPAC faces another deadline to secure that vote on Thursday.
If the deal with Digital World falls through, Trump Media will have to raise the funding to keep Truth Social running. It has raised around $37 million, mostly from Republican political donors.
William Wilkerson, a former Trump Media executive who was fired in October after publicly saying he had filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in an interview that the company earns about 1.7 million dollars every month spend millions of dollars in cash . Truth Social recently started running advertisements on its website.
But Mr Wilkerson said if the deal with Digital World fell through, a plausible alternative for Trump Media would be to consider a merger with Rumble, a conservative video-sharing alternative to YouTube that is emerging as Trump Media’s key business partner Has.
Mr. Wilkerson, as well as a second person with knowledge of Trump Social’s operations, said about half of the employees at Trump Media’s Sarasota, Fla., office are Rumble employees. Rumble provides much of the back office operations to Truth Social. In August, Mr Trump’s company joined the video-sharing company’s advertising platform.
Rumble recently completed its own merger with a SPAC, giving it access to around $400 million in cash.
“It is now very likely that Rumble is a public company,” Mr. Wilkerson said during the interview he conducted with his legal team of Philip Brewster, Patrick Mincey and Stephen Bell.
Trump Media did not address a possible future merger with Rumble. However, in an emailed statement, the company blamed the SEC for the delay in completing its merger with Digital World.
“Although the SEC was chartered to protect private shareholders,” Trump Media said, “the SEC is intentionally damaging them with its illegal political targeting system – and should face serious consequences for doing so.”
Rumble did not respond to requests for comment.
A combination of Rumble and Trump Media could provide an imposing conservative alternative to Twitter, especially as Truth Social faces a growing competitive threat from Elon Musk, who completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter on Thursday. He has promised a more lenient moderation policy that could alienate some conservatives – including Mr Trump himself – from Truth Social. Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, is also planning to buy Parler, in a deal that could attract conservative users.
“I like Elon, but I’m sticking to the truth,” Mr. Trump said during a Fox News interview after Mr. Musk took over.
But those risks have largely overshadowed a string of smaller victories for Truth Social, which culminated this month with the release of its long-delayed Android app, making the app available to about 40 percent of Americans using that operating system. (The iPhone app launched in February.)
“Has anyone happened to notice that Truth Social is number one, ahead of TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and everyone else?” Mr Trump asked on Truth Social this month after the Android app launched and received more than 100,000 downloads. “Just ask!”
A Pew Research Center poll conducted in May found that 27 percent of US adults had heard of Truth Social, which hit Gettr and Gab, as well as video-streaming sites Rumble and BitChute. Only Parler, launched six years ago, had a higher profile.
Mr. Trump remains the app’s raison d’être. While his four million followers are a shadow of the 88 million who subscribed to his frenetic Twitter feed before he was banned in January 2021 over fears he would incite violence, his “truths” may stretch far beyond the confines of the ecosystem of Truth resonate.
After Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was searched by federal agents looking for classified documents, he made the unsubstantiated claims about the truth that the Federal Bureau of Investigations was corrupted by Democrats that the documents may have been planted and that the documents were declassified all along.
“If he wants this message to get into the Twittersphere, he needs people to scan it, post it, or write something about it,” said Jared Holt, senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. “It happens all the time.”
The day after the Mar-a-Lago search, web traffic to Truth Social more than doubled compared to previous averages, according to data from Similar Web.
Days later, a gunman attempted to break into an FBI office in Cincinnati and was later killed by police. A Truth Social account with the name of the man identified by law enforcement, Ricky Shiffer, had posted about the Mar-a-Lago search and told followers to “get whatever they need to get ready for the fight.” be”. The same account also appeared to confess to an attack on the FBI
“It was a sign that the platform had reached a milestone,” said Mr. Holt. “Because the sad truth is that any platform — once it’s big enough — has to deal with someone doing something like that.”