After nearly a year banned from most major social media outlets, former President Donald Trump has created his own platform. Trump announced Wednesday night he is creating "TRUTH Social," projected to launch early next year. (Given his constant lying, the site's name is either trollish or Orwellian.) "We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter," Trump said in the announcement, "yet your favorite American president has been silenced."
But if Trump used the launch announcement to sneer at Twitter, that doesn't mean he's given up on returning to the platform. The launch of TRUTH — a typically all-caps appellation — comes while the former president is still pursuing a lawsuit bent on forcing Twitter to let him start blaring missives to the millions of followers he once claimed, before being locked out after the Jan. 6 election.
But surely his involvement in a new social media platform undermines the logic of that lawsuit. Twitter "exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate," his lawyers argued in a filing just three weeks ago. The company is "censoring" Trump, the filing said.
But TRUTH — seriously, ugh — isn't exactly a free speech zone. Axios' Lachlan Markay pointed out Thursday morning that the platform's terms of service bans users from posts that "disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site." If you're looking to criticize Trump, this is not the place to start posting.
More importantly, Trump's lawsuit depends on the idea that Twitter is so omnipotent it has a virtual stranglehold on democratic discourse in this country. The platform is powerful, yes, but the existence of conservative-oriented competitors — Parler, Gab, GETTR — suggest there are plenty of options for the MAGA crowd to express themselves. Trump's involvement in yet another competitor is a signal the discourse can happen even without Twitter.
Then again, Trump may be less concerned about the discourse and more interested in cash: The new company has reportedly generated nearly $300 million in financing. And if Twitter's ban is ever dropped, you can probably expect Trump to run back immediately. It's the digital space where he was most fully himself. If that's the case, we'll probably find out — again — that Trump has only a casual regard for TRUTH.