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Will Truth Social Take A Bite Out Of Twitter? My Review

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

In a sane world, censorship wouldn’t exist. In a sane world, tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, which have become de facto modern ‘public squares,’ would respect and allow the free and open exchange of ideas on their platforms. In a sane world, former President Donald Trump and countless others wouldn’t have been summarily banned from said platforms for the ‘crime’ of simply expressing what they believe to be true. In a sane world, the urgent need for alternative platforms like Truth Social wouldn’t exist.

But we don’t live in a sane world, do we? Instead, we find ourselves in an Orwellian, dystopian nightmare where the powers-that-be don’t just want to argue for and implement their policy positions, they want to stifle debate and silence those who dare to disagree. “Build your own platforms,” they smugly told conservatives as their voices and ability to confront their online critics and counter opposing viewpoints was diminished to the point of being almost nonexistent. Then, when Parler famously did just that, they even tried their best to squash them.

Fortunately, Parler overcame the obstacles Amazon and others threw at them in early 2021 and made a semi-complete - if glitchy - return. Others have arisen from nothing or gained significant user bases as well, including Gab, MeWe, GETTR, Rumble, and CloutHub. Almost all, unfortunately, have significant issues and feature drawbacks that keep them from being on par with tech giants Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in any meaningful way, yet. And these go well beyond just the fact that they’re super-segmented and host just a fraction of Big Tech’s user base, though that is a huge issue in and of itself.

Since we’re delving into Truth Social today, I’ll keep this critique to just the Twitter alternatives: Parler has become such an absolute technical dumpster fire that it almost physically hurts to go there and try to post anything beyond basic text. If you have an account there you’ve had the misfortune to try to use, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Get your act together, Parler! Gab gets kudos for longevity, stability (they have their own servers), direct messaging, and its firm commitment to free speech and open debate, but there’s no app (not their fault and there’s a workaround), posts aren’t visually pleasing (featured images don’t get uploaded correctly), and it’s sometimes slow and glitchy, especially with video uploads. GETTR has a fairly large active user base and its existing tech is smooth and by far the best of the bunch, but there are drawbacks. Videos can only be three minutes, there’s no direct message or group chat option (boo!!), and the search function is limited at best.

Now, on to Truth Social. Given the competition from alternative platforms and the domination of the much larger and technically proficient Twitter, how will this newest addition be different? The first way, of course, is the most important by a long shot. Any platform which includes the former president is going to rise head and shoulders above the rest based on that factor alone. However, will Truth Social stake its long-term success not just on the back of Trump’s triumphant return to social media, but also on providing the most features and being the most technically sound free speech Twitter-style platform yet? To answer some of my questions, I turned to Truth Social CEO and former California Rep. Devin Nunes, whose team was also gracious enough to allow me to beta test the app.

“Unlike any other social media platform in the world, President Trump will be exclusively posting to Truth Social,” Nunes said. “We are also hopeful that any American with concerns about their data being manipulated or their speech silenced will be heartened by our commitment to partnering with companies like Rumble that strive to defend free speech and be independent of Big Tech.”

My first question involved the gradual rollout leading to what will hopefully be an end-of-March full release. Currently, only the iOS app is available, but a web version is critical for me, especially with the process I use to clip and post videos to social media. I’m told it’s coming, thankfully, but wasn’t given an exact timeline. It’s hard to imagine a web & Android version not being available by the end of March, however, given the number of users they would likely miss out on.

How is Truth Social different from Twitter? According to Nunes: “Unlike Twitter, our users’ posts will never be obscured or manipulated by algorithms, meaning we won't be force-feeding you the information we believe you should see. Our platform delivers posts in chronological order and does not shadow ban accounts or content. So users themselves determine what information they receive.”

Regarding current technical capabilities and features: Video length is currently limited to two minutes, but the development team is working to expand that and add other features like GIFs and live-streaming capabilities that aren’t available at present. There are also plans to add direct messaging and group messaging capabilities, which aren’t presently available. Whether those features arrive by the end of March remains to be seen, but adding them would be a huge differentiator and perhaps attract current Twitter users who enjoy being able to communicate directly with mutual followers.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed helping to beta test the app. It can be a bit glitchy right now, but they’re releasing updates often and the company seems to be genuinely trying to get the tech right, which is a huge deal given the huge advantage of the giant they’re trying to take a bite out of. Whether this replaces Twitter for conservatives who still have Twitter as an option will depend on if it can at least moderately match features like messaging, group chats, lists, and even the ability for verified people to see mentions from other verified people (a big deal for journalists). It would also be nice to be able to attract liberals to the platform, because while leftist love echo chambers, the right genuinely wants debate and a free and open exchange of ideas. Whether Truth Social rises to the challenges ahead of them remains to be seen, but they seem to be off to a solid start.

You can follow me on Truth Social @scottmorefield! (Sorry, no link because well, you know, no web version … )

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