VSConservatives on Twitter are celebrating a potential reversal of the tide following Elon Musk’s deal to buy the social media platform – and many this week are heralding the departure of liberal users by tweeting so mocking trending hashtags like #ByeTwitter and #LeaveTwitter.
“Prepare for the large-scale collapse of the blue tick after @Elon Musk seal the deal and I should restore my personal Twitter account,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal account was permanently suspended earlier this year for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
Musk’s $44 billion deal with Twitter has led to heightened speculation over whether Tesla’s billionaire CEO, a self-proclaimed ‘free speech absolutist’, plans to reinstate the accounts of prominent conservatives like Greene and, most notably, former President Donald Trump on the social media site. Musk’s purchase, which won’t be finalized until October, has also cast a cloud of uncertainty over the fate of Trump’s own alternative social platform, TRUTH Social.
TRUTH Social did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment on how a Musk-owned Twitter, with fewer speech restrictions and less content moderation, might affect its service’s growth. TRUTH aims to attract Trump supporters and people unhappy with the crackdown on hate, harassment and misinformation on services like Twitter, but it struggles to attract followers.
What did Trump say about Musk buying Twitter?
Following the announcement of Musk’s deal on Monday, Trump told Fox News that regardless of Musk’s takeover, he would not return to Twitter after being permanently banned. “because of the risk of further incitement to violence” following the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol. The former president said he would instead stay on TRUTH Social, a free speech-focused platform he created last fall under his new media company, Trump Media & Technology. Group (TMTG).
“I’m not going to Twitter, I’m going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said the day the deal was announced. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he will improve it and he’s a good man, but I’m going to stick with TRUTH.”
How does Musk’s deal affect TRUTH Social?
Monday’s news was followed by a spike in downloads for TRUTH Social and Twitter. Forbes reports that before the deal was announced, TRUTH Social was ranked 52nd on Apple’s app download chart while Twitter was 39th. On Tuesday, TRUTH Social had risen to the top of the chart, followed by Twitter at number two. TRUTH Social downloads jumped to 75,000 for the week of April 18-25, a 150% increase from the previous week, according to data from app metrics platform Sensor Tower.
But a “brief wave of interest” in TRUTH Social is not a predictor of overall success, says Jonathan Nagler, co-director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics. He says the platform’s long waiting list, reportedly approaching 1.5 million people at the start of the month, could deter users from returning to TRUTH Social after signing up.
“There might be a day when there’s a relatively high number of downloads,” he says. “But if people creating accounts don’t have access to the app, is it worth going back and trying again?”
What does the future of TRUTH Social look like?
A renewed enthusiasm for Twitter among right-wing users could bode ill for TRUTH Social at a precarious time for the platform, which was designed to be the “first big rival to ‘Big Tech’.”
The news already appears to be redirecting those users’ attention to Twitter, with NBC News reporting that the follower counts for some political right-wing Twitter accounts, including Greene’s, skyrocketed after reports of the deal. Musk surfaced.
Since its debut on February 21, TRUTH Social has been plagued by reports of technical issues, outages, and a long waiting list to join the site. Prior to the recent recovery, app downloads were down nearly 97% between the week after the site launched and the week of April 11-18, according to Sensor Tower. Two key executives, chief technology officer Josh Adams and product development manager Billy Boozer, have also resigned from the company.
Meanwhile, Trump himself has only posted once on TRUTH, where his 1.89 million follower count is a fraction of the size of his peak Twitter following of over 80 million. “Be prepared! Your favorite president will see you soon!” he wrote in February.
Musk’s acquisition of Twitter initially seemed to spell financial trouble for TRUTH. Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special-purpose acquisition company set up to take TMTG public, plunged 13% after news of the sale on Monday, continuing a steep decline that saw the blank check company lose nearly a third of its value since the start of the year.
Despite TRUTH’s challenges, Trump further explained to Fox why he has no plans to join Twitter. “[TRUTH is] hosting millions of people, and what we’re seeing is the response on TRUTH is much better than on Twitter,” he said. “At the end of the day, no, I’m not going back to Twitter.”
If Trump is allowed to return to Twitter, his best bet to revive TRUTH Social might be to use his “megaphone” on Twitter to promote his own site, Nagler says.
“He could use Twitter for a day to say to everyone who follows him, ‘Go to TRUTH Social. I’m really here,'” Nagler says. become big enough for people to find a reason to be there.”
Trump said on Monday he would begin posting more “TRUTHS” over the next week. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to energize the platform. “We’re dealing with a lot of maybes,” Nagler said. “What this ultimately means for TRUTH Social is a bit opaque.”
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