Trump's Truth Social app may fail, but affect election

Truth Social, the social media service being pursued by Donald Trump, is likely to meet with similar problems to other attempts to create conservative-friendly social media services.

What happens without moderation is horrific

I joined alternate social media site Gab for a couple of weeks, to try it out, before promptly closing my account after getting a thorough look at what kind of repulsive people use the site. The best analogy is that if Twitter is a park, Gab is a lunatic asylum where the inmates are able to leave their cells and do whatever they want. Judging by the small and ideologically restrictive user base, it is obvious that users have their own way of silencing people and keeping them off the site, in a way that is possibly worse and certainly more arbitrary than any algorithm on Twitter.

A site that allows the full range of human behaviours, including the very worst, might seem to encourage liberty. But when bullies have free reign, how much liberty can there be? It is arguable that when the next person is free to do whatever they want, including degrade you, you have less freedom. The low numbers of people signed up to Gab, despite being aware of it, speak volumes about its failed appeal as a social network and the fact the user experience is more coercive than on Twitter.

It has been reported that even doxing is allowed on Gab. Almost everyone on the site has some fringe far-right view, and the user base is so small that it is more like a membership database for the few deranged cultists and violent psychopaths in society rather than a social network.

Social media isn't meant for extremism

Gab isn't a social network in the proper sense. It doesn't connect people, as is the purpose of a social network. Accounts promoting bizarre ideologies, while receiving no engagement and responding to nothing, are common. It is like all the bad accounts and spam accounts on Twitter got removed and put somewhere where they can carry on talking in a cell with no audience.

We have to remember that social networks were really just created so people can carry on interacting in a virtual space. They aren't propaganda machines. Any website created to mimic Twitter but mobilise political armies is doomed to failure, since that was never the appeal or purpose of Twitter in the first place.

Despite its seemingly libertarian credentials, most of the user profiles I saw on Gab were neo-Nazis, and one was even calling for the restoration of slavery in America. So, in other words, those who most enjoy the supposed freedom offered by Gab are users who want to literally take other people's freedom away, and they are looking for a space where they can advocate such things?

Conservatives often doomed to get themselves silenced

This is a common problem with some conservatives in America. They seem to be always the first to make references to freedom of speech when theirs is curtailed in any way, and the first to call for someone else's to be taken off them if they don't like what they heard. Exactly as with many liberals, it doesn't take much to convince conservatives to express alarm at mere words and call for the words to be stopped.

Finally, let us turn to the topic at hand - Trump's social media app, called Truth Social. The only feature of this app, that will make people use it, will be Trump. The existence of a Trump account there will cause some significant influencers, journalists, et cetera, and their followers across the world, to sign up to it. There is potential there for some diversity of thought, certainly a lot more than Gab. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

However, if there is insufficient moderation of the content, the site will become overwhelmingly filled again with neo-Nazis and others posting extremist content and personal threats. If there is sufficient moderation, many conservatives will cry foul and not only leave the platform but could denounce Donald Trump in the process. As such, there is pressure to moderate it properly, and not moderate it properly, at the same time.

Why would Trump bother, if it is doomed?

What is certain is that the launch of the Truth Social app will probably have a significant effect and see a large spike in use if and when Donald Trump runs for president once again. Given that it may only be growing for a short time during such a campaign, and do well throughout it, its future decline will be unknown to us and its explosive success at the time will assist with Trump's chances of becoming president again.

It can be estimated that Truth Social will probably be banned from most app stores, including Apple's app store. It will be too controversial for business. However, even still, the "censorship" scandal associated with this and the fact people will still be able to make their way to the website will still have a positive effect on a hypothetical Trump campaign's performance.

To sum up, Truth Social will probably be a failure, especially if it is solely for political benefit and not as an actual social network with unique selling points and adequate moderation. If it is going to actually try to compete with Twitter and accommodate hard line conservatives kicked from Twitter, it will fail, but it could still have a positive effect on a hypothetical future Trump campaign. Whether that boosting effect on Trump's attempt to get re-elected will be decisive enough to return him to the White House remains to be seen.