Former U.S. President Boosts QAnon, 4Chan Disinformation via Truth Social App
On August 29 and 30 2022, former United States President Donald Trump turned to his app Truth Social to share dozens of disinformation-heavy posts — content that was largely not visible to users not registered with the app, but which prompted significant concern nevertheless.
Trump was banned from the Facebook and Twitter platforms in January 2021, broadly limiting his social media reach. He launched Truth Social in late February 2021, which served as a partisan social platform and enabled Trump to reach his remaining supporters.
On August 29 2022, Salon.com reported that he amplified statements made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), threatening “riots in the streets” if Trump was indicted:
Former President Donald Trump on Sunday [August 28 2022] shared a video on his struggling Twitter knockoff Truth Social of Sen. Linsey Graham, R-S.C., warning of “riots” in the streets if he is indicted.
Graham issued the warning during an interview with Fox News host Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman, days after a partially redacted FBI affidavit revealed that investigators had probable cause to believe Trump violated laws related to classified documents, record preservation and obstruction of justice.
“If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle… there’ll be riots in the streets,” Graham told Gowdy, who led the infamous House GOP Benghazi hearings.
On August 29 2022, screenshots of a Truth Social post by Trump circulated:
We're about 10 weeks before the 2022 midterms and Donald Trump is still — openly — talking about undoing/rejecting the 2020 presidential election results.
Which still can't happen, legally or logistically.
Which still (for now) doesn't seem to affect his chances in 2024. pic.twitter.com/C1lqzjn5cR
— stephen fowler (@stphnfwlr) August 29, 2022
In the screenshot, Trump’s depicted post unsurprisingly addressed his loss in 2020, alongside a demand for “a new Election”:
So now it comes out, conclusively, that the FBI BURIED THE HUNTER BIDEN LAPTOP STORY BEFORE THE ELECTION knowing that, if they didn’t, “Trump would have easily won the 2020 Presidential Election.” This is massive FRAUD & ELECTION INTERFERENCE at a level never seen before in our Country. REMEDY: Declare the rightful winner or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!
On August 30 2022, Politico.com reporter Kyle Cheney shared screenshots of several of Trump’s recent Truth Social posts. He appeared to promote content from QAnon sites and 4Chan, and reiterated wholly debunked claims that anti-fascists were responsible for the January 6 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol:
For good measure, he’s also promoting a nonsense idea that the FBI and antifa, not his supporters, stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, and a completely false claim about Ray Epps’ wife. pic.twitter.com/GT59R5Igaj
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 30, 2022
An August 30 2022 article from the Independent reported on Trump’s Truth Social activity, explaining the former president’s commentary was part of an “increasingly scattered response to the FBI search of his home” in August 2022:
“Presidential Records Act was fully adhered to by me, but not by the FBI. They RAIDED my home (4th Amendment anyone?). Agent In Charge was just walked out of the FBI Headquarters Building for wrongdoing. He was also involved with the 2020 Election Hoax, the Crime of the Century!!!” he wrote in one rambling statement just after 8am after a long series of “retruths” of memes from his fans.
The statement is packed to the limit with nonsense; the agent to whom Mr Trump is apparently referring, Timothy Thibault, was not “just walked out of the FBI Headquarters Building for wrongdoing” — he retired, and was escorted out as is typical policy. He also, crucially, has not been accused of wrongdoing by anyone besides Mr Trump’s supporters. Mr Trump would again go on to wrongly refer to him as “fired” in another post.
In addition to his quibble about the “agent in charge”, which is largely meaningless in terms of the overall investigation, the president’s statement also falsely claims that he adhered to the Presidential Records Act, which at a bare minimum would have required any of these documents to have been first returned to the National Archives instead of being stored at Mar-a-Lago.
In separate news on August 30 2022, tech news outlet The Verge reported that Truth Social was low on funding and accounts — describing Trump’s presence as the app’s largest draw:
Earlier this week [of August 29 2022], Fox Business reported that the company stopped paying RightForge, a conservative internet infrastructure company, in March and now owes the vendor at least $1.6 million in backdated payments. While RightForge CEO Martin Avila has said that the company is “committed to servicing” Truth Social, the platform could lose its hosting services if it continues to withhold payments.
The social network’s biggest asset continues to be Trump himself and the legion of fans who have followed him after his ban from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the wake of the Capitol riot. But while the iOS app saw a surge in downloads shortly after the FBI’s warranted search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, basic technological failures are still holding back growth.
Later that day, several stories appeared reporting that Truth Social remained unavailable on Google Play for reasons related to content moderation:
Google said the app lacks effective systems for moderating user-generated content, which violates the store’s terms of service.
“On Aug. 19 , we notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies in their current app submission and reiterated that having effective systems for moderating user-generated content is a condition of our terms of service for any app to go live on Google Play,” the tech company, which is owned by Alphabet, told CNBC in a statement Tuesday [August 30 2022] … The restriction means that Android users, who make up 44% of smartphone users in the U.S., can’t download the app. Google will not let the app go live until the content issues are addressed. Truth Social acknowledged Google’s concerns and said it would work on addressing these issues, according to Axios.
Reporter Steve Reilly speculated that Trump’s August 29 and 30 2022 series of posts could be tied to the app’s financial woes:
Context for Trump's outburst today on Truth Social today: In an Aug. 25 SEC filing, Truth Social's holding company noted that the success of the business is dependent on Trump's "reputation and popularity." https://t.co/VEM2UjyDnf https://t.co/X9lIDMhBeV pic.twitter.com/0OP51aavZ3
— Steve Reilly (@BySteveReilly) August 30, 2022
Although Trump’s posting spree prompted alarm over tacit threats involving organizations like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other government agencies, the content also had a far smaller reach. Before he was banned from Twitter, Trump had amassed 88 million followers. On Truth Social, he had just four million accounts following his posts.