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Truth Social, Donald Trump's social media app, launches year after Twitter ban

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Just over a year ago, former President Donald Trump got booted from social media sites, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. He then vowed to create his own platform. He calls it Truth Social. And it launched yesterday. I talked earlier with NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn about it.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: So there was tons of interest. The app was released Monday morning and quickly shot to the top of Apple's most downloaded list. But many people, myself included, who tried to check it out were stuck in a kind of tech doom loop. You know, there were these email confirmations that were promised and never arrived. You'd put in a code and get an error message. This was widely reported across Twitter and other social media. Those who were able to make accounts were placed on a wait list, with some hundreds of thousands of people in front of them.

MARTIN: Bless you for doing that for the sake of journalism, Bobby.

ALLYN: (Laughter).

MARTIN: So just remind us the larger context here. Twitter, of course, banned Trump. But say more about his agenda with this app.

ALLYN: Yeah. Exactly. So you know, since he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after statements he made urging supporters to storm the Capitol, you know, he has wanted to start his own Twitter-esque service. And he's enlisted former Congressman Devin Nunes to lead the effort. Nunes recently went on Fox News to talk up Truth Social. He says all the bugs will be worked out by the end of March and that it's all about, you know, giving people their voice back and creating a social media platform that's not controlled by a big Silicon Valley company. And let me remind you, this is a really crowded space, Rachel. There's, like, half a dozen other conservative-leading, you know, social media apps trying to pull people away from the Twitters and Facebooks of the world.

MARTIN: Right. So he has competition. Even Donald Trump has competition in that space. So does this app, then - with Trump's name attached to it, does it have any kind of shot of breaking through?

ALLYN: Certainly has a very powerful publicity machine. I mean, Trump allies, like representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, are talking it up, so is Fox News star Sean Hannity. It has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. So given these big names and its sizable fundraising, you know, it does have potential. But experts I talked to are pretty doubtful that it will ever come anywhere close to replacing Twitter. Here's Hunter College professor Jessie Daniels, who studies online extremism.

JESSIE DANIELS: I think part of what he has found so valuable, especially about Twitter, is that it both is relied upon by journalists as a source, and it's used by a real cross section of people politically. And so Twitter becomes a kind of target-rich environment.

ALLYN: In other words, Truth Social might not be that, right? Twitter has some 300 million users and lots of different views, lots of viral squabbles. And if a platform is mostly like-minded people, you know, basically an echo chamber, you might not have those fights that make Twitter create so many headlines.

MARTIN: Although, it can serve to animate his base, couldn't it?

ALLYN: That's true. No, that is very true. you know? But, you know, there's also only so many people interested in a non-mainstream alternative to Twitter.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ALLYN: So it's sort of, you know, are these people really - who are at other sites going to go to Trump's new site? And I will note here, Rachel, that I checked out the app's terms of service. And there is one thing that is prohibited on Truth Social, and that is, quote, to "disparage, tarnish or otherwise harm" the backers of the site. And I imagine that means Donald Trump.

MARTIN: NPR's Bobby Allyn. We appreciate your reporting on this, Bobby. Thanks.

ALLYN: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.