Even though it’s been months since Truth Social went on the market, Google has still not let the hoards of Trump supporters download their favorite former president’s app off its app store. Finally, the company has revealed that Truth has so far failed to come up with a content moderation policy that will satisfy the tech giant.
Axios first reported that Google hasn’t approved Truth Social for distribution on the Google Play Store, simply because the app still fails to moderate content users post, especially those that relate to violence.
This was confirmed by a Google spokesperson who told Gizmodo in an email:
“On August 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. Last week Truth Social wrote back acknowledging our feedback and saying that they are working on addressing these issues.”
Though this isn’t what the leadership over at Trump Media and Technology Group, the owners of Truth Social, are saying. Former congressman and group CEO Devin Nunes told the Real America’s Voice podcast in a Aug. 26 episode that the app was waiting on Google to give them approval, and that “they could approve it tomorrow and it would be… available for preorder.” He also added, “we built this up brick by brick so we wouldn’t be canceled.”
Google has said that Nunes misrepresented the conversations currently going on at Google, and that the app has so far failed to meet Google’s policies that restrict content that includes physical threats and speech that incites violence. Axios reported based on an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation that Google is concerned about posts that say things like “Someone admit this nation needs to be nuked because it’s satanic.”
In a posted statement TMTG said they have continued to work with Google to comply with Google’s policies, adding they work “expeditiously to remove content that violates its terms of service.
Still, it’s not like far-right supporters trying to hear the siren song of their dear leader are restricted from accessing the app. The tech giant does not restrict apps from being downloaded through their own websites.
But the dividing line between “violence” and “politics” is sometimes a bit thin in far-right circles. Researchers have already proved that QAnon supporters are rife on Truth Social, and they are being actively platformed by major Republican political actors and former President Donald Trump himself. Trump has “retruthed” posts that spoke about the need for a civil war in the U.S., according to researchers.
On the other side of the coin, Apple Store has let Truth Social continue on unabated since February of this year. It quickly rose to the number one most downloaded social media app on the day of release. The app lagged behind many others for months until this month when users started to flock to the app after the FBI launched its search of Trump’s home and Mar-a-Lago resort.
Apple’s own policies for user-generated content require apps to have “A method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app.” Any app that violates these guidelines can be “removed without notice.”
Gizmodo did not immediately hear back from Apple about what metrics it uses to determine Truth Social has not yet violated its guidelines.
Far-right apps have had issues getting the major app store providers to let them set up shop. Parler, in particular, has been banned from Google and Apple’s app stores. At the time, Apple called Parler’s content moderation “inadequate,” but is now available for download after “months of productive dialogue with Apple.” Truth Social uses a “sensitive content” banner above some posts which might not be “suitable for all audiences,” but it does not appear above all content that relates to obvious calls for violence, exemplified by the multiple posts Trump himself has repost.
Truth Social does use censoring technology called Hive that Nunes has previously said was geared toward keeping Truth “family friendly” which includes porn, violence, hate speech or bullying, though the app’s owners tried to make it clear the systems do not censor anything “political.” We know the site does occasionally ban users, though the question remains how it determines what speech is inappropriate. Twitter users have reported being banned from the platform for daring to talk about the Jan. 6 hearings.
Update 08/30/22 at 4:05 p.m. ET: This post was updated to include a statement from TMTG.