Former President and presumed 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump has launched TRUTH Social, a new social media platform designed to protect the kind of violent free speech that got its founder permanently banned from Twitter. However, some kinds of speech are more free than others: The TRUTH Social terms of service prohibit users from making fun of TRUTH Social.
The TRUTH Social website frames the project as “America’s ‘Big Tent’ social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.” But that conversation comes with restrictions.
“As a user of the Site you agree not to disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site,” the terms of service read. “Disparage” leaves an awful lot of wiggle room, and that “in our opinion,” is especially suggestive, allowing the platform to decide what does and does not constitute harm.
Trump’s past behavior likely provides a clue as to how the rule will be enforced. He incited a violent insurrection on January 6th, telling his supporters in an inflammatory speech to “walk down to the Capitol” because “you will never take back our country with weakness.” On the other hand, in 2019 he attempted to misuse the power of the Justice Department to make SNL stop teasing him. Trump’s definition of harm has always been personal.
TRUTH Social isn’t just an Orwellian nightmare that labels posts as “TRUTHS” and re-posts as “Re-TRUTHS.” It’s also a mess. There’s no identity verification process, and several people have already registered accounts as Donald Trump himself. It’s getting funding from a so-called blank check company that seems to have ties to China. And instead of writing its own code, it seems to be based on the open-source platform Mastodon, the license for which it may already have violated.