After being banned from most social media platforms for inciting the January 6 insurrection, former President Donald Trump created his own platform to get back online and avoid moderation. But the app, which is available only on Apple’s App Store, must abide by Apple’s safety policies, and the company has the ability to remove the app if Trump — who has spent years pushing false, misleading, and extreme content — doesn’t follow its policies.
Apple — which is the sole gatekeeper of what apps appear on iPhones and other popular Apple products — requires that all apps on its store “not include content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy,” which Apple says includes “defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content” and “false information and features.” According to Apple:
When people install an app from the App Store, they want to feel confident that it’s safe to do so—that the app doesn’t contain upsetting or offensive content, won’t damage their device, and isn’t likely to cause physical harm from its use. We’ve outlined the major pitfalls below, but if you’re looking to shock and offend people, the App Store isn’t the right place for your app.
Apple has removed apps that do not adhere to these policies, including one for the conservative platform Parler — which was removed after the January 6 insurrection for not adequately handling violent threats and hateful content that encouraged the riot. Parler returned to the App Store in May 2021, after the company agreed to use an artificial intelligence moderation system to label hate speech.
Trump is poised to cause a potential challenge for Apple. If Trump’s past behavior on social media and his subsequent behavior since being suspended or banned from most platforms is any indication, he will likely violate Apple’s policies and the company should follow the actions that it took with Parler and remove the app from the App Store until it moderates content, as promised.
Throughout his presidency, Trump used social media to spread dangerous, hateful lies, and social media companies did almost nothing to stop it. In fact, Media Matters analyzed 6,081 Facebook posts Trump made between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, when Facebook suspended his account, and we found that roughly a quarter of these posts contained misinformation, content warranting an additional information label, or harmful rhetoric about others. Among this content are multiple posts that seemingly incite violence. Trump’s dangerous activity on social media culminated in the events of January 6, when Trump used his Facebook page to encourage the Capitol rioters, who were spurred on by his monthslong barrage of false election fraud claims.
Even after being suspended and banned from social media platforms, Trump has continued to push extreme rhetoric and misinformation, particularly about elections. His press releases, website, online ads, rallies, and media interviews could not be any clearer: He is doubling down on the lie that the election was stolen and still using harmful rhetoric to attack his critics.
Based on his habits on Facebook in 2020, we expect that Trump will post misinformation and extreme rhetoric on Truth Social, some of which will likely violate Apple’s policies and be grounds for app removal if the app doesn’t moderate such content. Apple must enforce its rules when the inevitable occurs — whether that content comes directly from Trump or other users.