Victim of its own success? Donald Trump's Truth Social tops downloads but is beset by tech issues

Victim of its own success? Donald Trump's Truth Social tops downloads but is beset by tech issues
By Euronews, Reuters and AFP

Donald Trump's new social media venture, Truth Social, launched late on Sunday in Apple's App Store, potentially marking the former president's return to social media after he was banned from several platforms last year.

The app was available shortly before midnight ET and was the top free app available on the App Store early Monday but was plagued by technical problems.

Truth Social was automatically downloaded to Apple Inc devices belonging to users who had pre-ordered the app. Hours after Truth Social was launched on the US App Store, however, many users said they still did not have access to the social network.

The following message appeared on the screen of some smartphones: "Due to massive demand, we have placed you on our waitlist. We love you and you are not just a number to us".

Other users who had pre-ordered the app, meanwhile, failed to finalise their registration, receiving an error message at the final stage.

The app has been available for people invited to use it during its test phase.

Trump's political comeback?

Trump was banned from Twitter Inc, Facebook, and Alphabet Inc's YouTube following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021, after he was accused of posting messages inciting violence.

Led by former Republican US congressman Devin Nunes, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), the venture behind Truth Social, joins a growing portfolio of technology companies that are positioning themselves as champions of free speech and hope to draw users who feel their views are suppressed on more established platforms.

So far none of the newer companies, which include Twitter competitors Gettr and Parler and video site Rumble, have come close to matching the popularity of their mainstream counterparts.

"This week we will begin to roll out on the Apple App Store. That's going to be awesome, because we're going to get so many more people that are going to be on the platform," Nunes said in a Sunday appearance on Fox News.

"Our goal is, I think we're going to hit it, I think by the end of March we're going to be fully operational at least within the United States," he added.

Truth Social's app store page detailing its version history showed the first public version of the app, or version 1.0 was available a day ago, confirming a Reuters report. The current version 1.0.1 includes "bug fixes," according to the page.

Drumming up support

On Friday, Nunes was on the app urging users to follow more accounts, share photos and videos and participate in conversations, in an apparent attempt to drum up activity, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

"It’s touching for me to see people who have had their voices muzzled using the platform," said Nunes on Fox on Sunday.

Trump's platform has been attracting support from some of his most high-profile champions.

Controversial Republican congresswoman and conspiracist Marjorie Taylor Greene published screenshots of her first messages on Truth Social - which looks very similar to Twitter - on Sunday.

"As the only Member of Congress to have had my personal @Twitter account banned, I understand what millions of conservatives have gone through having their personal freedom of speech stolen from them by Big Tech for not parroting the approved messaging," she tweeted.

"Time for some Truth!!!," Donald Trump Jr, the ex-president's son, tweeted on Tuesday with a screenshot of a message from his father on the network who posted: "Get Ready! Your favorite president will see you soon!".

Even as details of the app begin trickling out, TMTG remains mostly shrouded in secrecy and is regarded with skepticism by some in tech and media circles. It is unclear, for example, how the company is funding its current growth.

TMTG is planning to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC) and stands to receive $293 million (€258 million) in cash that DWAC holds in a trust, assuming no DWAC shareholder redeems their shares, TMTG said in an October 21 press release.

Additionally, in December TMTG raised $1 billion (€882 million) committed financing from private investors; that money also will not be available until the DWAC deal closes.

Digital World's activities have come under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to a regulatory filing, and the deal is likely months away from closing.