There’s plenty to unpack following Wednesday night’s announcement that former President Trump is launching a new “media and technology” group, one that includes a social media platform, Truth Social, promising “open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.”
Trump has long railed against Big Tech censorship, particularly of himself as he pushed misinformation, hate speech, and violent rhetoric before Twitter banned him in January. “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up against the tyranny of Big Tech,” Trump wrote. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced.”
The thing about all of this, though, is that when it comes to everyone’s favorite American President, truth is subjective, and “free speech” comes with more than a few caveats. So, too, is the case for Truth Social, the terms of service for which include a clause stating that users may not “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.”
In other words, users can’t make fun of or criticize Truth Social, and it’s up to Truth Social to determine what constitutes said “disparagement.”
The section is an early indication that Truth Social might have a little trouble following through on its promise to provide a “Big Tent” utopia of free-flowing social discourse. If it’s not going to permit bashing the platform, what about bashing, or harassing, other users? What about bashing everyone’s favorite American President? Parler — remember Parler? — promised to provide a similar bastion of free speech but then wound up imposing a bunch of restrictions and banning people, including, at one point, its own founder.
Parler itself was banned by Apple, Google, and Amazon following the Jan. 6 insurrection for allowing hateful, violent rhetoric to spread. Truth Social seems to be implying that it will permit such hateful, violent rhetoric (this is what got Trump banned from Twitter, after all), which seems like it would leave it prone to a similar ban. Parler is back on the App Store now after revising its content moderation policy, presumably having learned that it can’t just give a bunch of white supremacists free rein to post hate speech without facing consequences.
Will Truth Social be forced to learn a similar lesson?