Apple should follow Google’s lead and refuse to carry the Truth Social app on its store
Truth Social fails to moderate content that threatens or encourages violence, including from users who promote the QAnon conspiracy theory, seemingly violating Apple’s policies
Apple should follow Google’s lead in refusing to carry Truth Social on its application store because the social media platform — founded by former President Donald Trump — has failed to moderate content that threatens physical violence. Apple claims to remove apps that include such content.
According to Axios, Google said that on August 19 it “notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies” that need to be addressed in order for its app to go live on the Google Play store. Google said it reiterated to Truth Social that “having effective systems for moderating user-generated content” is a condition of its terms of service. A source told Axios that Google is specifically concerned about Truth Social’s failures to moderate “physical threats and incitements to violence.”
Truth Social’s failure to moderate violent threats on its platform has already been associated with at least one real world act of violence. On August 11, a man who had been amplifying conspiracy theories and threatening violence on Truth Social tried to infiltrate an FBI field office in Cincinnati while armed with an AR-15 rifle. The man fired a nail gun into the office and was subsequently killed by officers.
As Media Matters predicted when Truth Social launched in February, the social media platform appears to have repeatedly violated Apple’s safety policies. Apple must follow Google’s lead and enforce its own policies to keep its users safe.
Apple’s policies prohibit the distribution of apps that fail to moderate dangerous and defamatory content
Apple — which is the sole gatekeeper of what apps appear on iPhones and other popular Apple products — requires apps with “user-generated content or social networking services” to have “a method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app.” According to Apple, objectionable content includes “content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy.” Apple cites “defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content” and “false information and features” as examples.
The App Store Review Guidelines also warn that apps that end up being used primarily for “making physical threats” or “bullying do not belong on the App Store and may be removed without notice.”
Last year, following the January 6 insurrection, Apple removed conservative platform Parler from its App Store for failing to adequately handle “violent threats and hateful content on its platform that encouraged the riot.” Apple later denied Parler reentry to the App Store, noting that the app still contained “highly objectionable content” including “easily identified offensive uses of derogatory terms regarding race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as Nazi symbols.”
Truth Social has repeatedly failed to moderate content that threatens or incites violence
Just as Trump has historically failed to condemn violent rhetoric, Truth Social has failed to moderate violent rhetoric.
Hours after the FBI conducted its lawful and warranted search of his home, Trump posted a video to Truth Social in which he declared, over what seemed to be a QAnon song, that we are “a nation in decline” and alleged that “we are a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party.”
According to a report by The New York Times, following the FBI search, Truth Social erupted with “predictions of imminent civil war and calls for violence”:
Truth Social users posted that the United States was born “through an insurrection followed by several years of bloody violence,” and that the country would “become a communist state just as long as we don’t pick up arms and fight back!!” There was talk that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” a phrase from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, and that “sometimes clearing out dangerous vermin requires a modicum of violence, unfortunately.”
What’s more, Truth Social also became a “haven” for “private, doxxed information” about authorities involved in the search of Mar-a-Lago as well as their families. One user reportedly took to Truth Social to ask for help verifying the address for the synagogue of the judge who approved the search warrant. The synagogue then had to cancel services due to “an outpouring of antisemitic abuse.”
Newsweek reported that downloads of Truth Social from Apple’s App Store spiked in the week following the Mar-a-Lago search by an unsettling 550%. Amid this influx of tens of thousands of new users, Trump has used Truth Social to continue sharing the same sort of unhinged rhetoric that inspired the January 6 insurrection. As recently as August 29, Trump posted to Truth Social that the only “REMEDY” for “massive FRAUD & ELECTION INTERFERENCE” in 2020 is either to “declare [Trump] the rightful winner” or “declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!”
Truth Social’s leadership team has made direct appeals to supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory
Since the app was founded, Truth Social and its leadership have made direct appeals to supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. In June, Kash Patel — who at one point was a member of Truth Social’s board — suggested that the social media platform was trying to “incorporate” QAnon “into our overall messaging scheme to capture audiences.”
QAnon is a cult of conspiracy theorists and anti-government groups that has been tied to various acts of violence including the January 6 insurrection and has been flagged by multiple government agencies as a potential domestic terror threat.
As Media Matters senior researcher Alex Kaplan has documented, Trump amplified accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory “at least 315 times via at least 168 individual accounts” on Twitter before he was banned from the app in January 2021.
Trump has continued his amplification of this hateful and dangerous conspiracy group on Truth Social.
On August 30, Trump amplified at least 12 different QAnon accounts a total of 18 times.
Apple should enforce its policies and remove the Truth Social app from its store, as the app continues to allow users to post violent threats and other dangerous content.