of Donald Trump social media company, TRUTH Socialfights with multitudes financial, legaland technical questions which threaten his very future. But its biggest problem, analysts say, is something the company initially assumed would be its biggest draw: Trump himself.
Social media networks that quickly capture large audiences tend to appeal to people regardless of age, location, economic status, race, or political affiliation. But TRUTH Social, co-founded by the controversial former president, is targeting a very specific and much narrower audience, hampering its growth prospects.
“Because TRUTH Social is an echo chamber, primarily for Trump followers, it doesn’t have the same kinds of diversity of opinion and content that make mainstream social media platforms appealing to the masses,” says Ryan Neville-Sheppard, an associate professor of communication at the University of Arkansas who studies American political rhetoric. “And if it doesn’t appeal to the masses, it won’t be hugely profitable.”
TRUTH Social did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.
The company the app is not yet approved for the Google Play Store. Retention stems from not having enough in the social network content moderationaccording to Google, a problem that plagues other conservative platformstoo.
The conundrum of free speech
TRUTH Social media is advertised as a haven of free speech. But its content moderation policies have consistently caused problems for the site. TRUTH Social has come under fire for both filtering seemingly innocuous posts and hosting violent ones.
“When we have platforms like TRUTH Social where there isn’t moderation to the degree that we see in other places, people are going to push the limits of that,” says Shannon McGregorassistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina who researches the role of social media in the political process.
There are already alleged incitements to violence on the platform. Earlier this month, posts appeared from an account using that name Ricky Schiffer. That’s the name of the man who authorities say tried to break into an FBI office in Cincinnati before being killed by law enforcement. Before the attack, the account posted a “call to arms” on TRUTH Social and told people to “get whatever you need to be ready for battle.”
Moderating content at scale is a challenge for even the largest and most experienced platforms, McGregor says: “We see these issues everywhere. But we see them more often on platforms where content moderation is not a priority and there are no resources dedicated to it.”
These problems can quickly turn into financial problems for technology platforms. A lack of moderation could start to alienate both users and advertisers if it opens the door to violent content, says Neville-Sheppard.
“Who wants to advertise on a platform that has a lot of extremist views?” he says. “It’s not a great business model.”
The problem with TRUTH Social’s ties to Trump
TRUTH Social is in a unique position compared to other alt-right Twitter clones like Gettr, Parler and Gab because its success essentially depends on Trump’s popularity, Neville-Sheppard says. “If Trump refuses, so will his platform,” he says.
The Washington Publish reported on Saturday that while on The recent FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate initially fueled a surge in user activity on TRUTH Social, in the days since, the site’s U.S. traffic has dropped to about 300,000 views a day, according to estimates by online analytics firm Similarweb. That’s far less than the nearly 1.5 million US views it registered on its February release day.
Trump himself has fewer than 4 million followers on TRUTH Social, a fraction of the more than 80 million followers he had on Twitter before he was permanently banned in January 2021. That means far fewer people see what does trump have to say on topics like Hearings on January 6 and on FBI affidavit used in Mar-a-Lago raid.
According to Neville-Sheppard, there’s a difference between TRUTH Social becoming a profitable business and serving as a megaphone for Trump. “The question is whether or not they can expand their audience,” he says. “But the dual purpose of the platform shows that they are probably distracted about what their business goals really are.”
Amid ongoing US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations into both Trump’s role in the January 6 Capitol riot and his work with classified White House documents, Fox Business reported on Friday that TRUTH Social’s finances may be in “significant disarray.” The report alleges that, among other issues, TRUTH Social owes conservative web hosting service RightForge about $1.6 million in contractual payments.
Meanwhile, according to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shavings from Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special-purpose acquisition company set to take TRUTH Social’s parent Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) public, TRUTH Social still has no guaranteed source of revenue six months after its launch. The digital world has previously disclosed that the SEC and DOJ are investigating the proposed merger with TMTG could “materially delay, materially impede or prevent the consummation” of the transaction.
Ultimately, TRUTH Social’s downfall could create an opportunity for another alt-right platform to rise in its place, Neville-Sheppard says. “The conservative platform that will do the best is the one that can attract the most conservative influencers,” he says. “Trump is usually the conservative influencer who gets all the attention on social media, but he probably only has influence while he’s in politics. Another platform could still easily be raised by other influencers on the right.”
More must-see stories from TIME