NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s social media app that he hopes will rival Twitter launched on Monday as he seeks a new digital stage to rally followers and fight boundaries of Big Tech in speaking, a year after being banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Its Truth Social app was offered for download on the Apple App Store to a limited number of pre-ordered subscribers. Others who have been added to a waitlist should have access within the next 10 days.
The site experienced technical issues soon after launch, with reports that subscribers were banned for hours. Others had trouble logging in. The site is not expected to be open to anyone who wants to download it until next month.
“Due to massive demand, we’ve placed you on our waitlist,” read a message to some of those trying to access the platform, adding, “We love you.”
Trump hopes Truth Social will attract the millions of people who have followed him on Twitter as he hints at a third presidential race, sparking a wave of other followers to justify the billions of dollars investors have staked on the business. Shares of a company that plans to buy Trump Media and Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, have soared in recent months.
According to Apple’s ranking, Truth Social was the best free app in the United States on Monday morning, beating children’s game “Talking Ben the Dog”, streaming service HBO Max, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
The partial launch on Monday follows an experimental “beta” launch to test the platform last week.
Trump was banned from major social media platforms following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot last year that critics accused him of instigating. The ban has raised tough questions about free speech in a social media industry dominated by a few tech giants — an issue that Trump and conservative media have seized on.
Republicans were quick to use the launch of Truth Social to raise funds for their campaign efforts.
“After over A YEAR of being muzzled by the liberal tyrants of Big Tech: TRUMP. EAST. RETURN,” GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in an email fundraising appeal Monday.
Groups like the Republican National Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund also raised money during the launch.
“Our main goal here is to give people back their voice,” Trump Media CEO and former GOP congressman Devin Nunes told Fox News on Sunday. He added that the app offers “the opposite of some Silicon Valley oligarch tech monsters that tell people what they want to think and decide who can or can’t be on the platform.”
Nunes said the app should be “fully operational” by the end of March.
Despite all the fanfare, Trump appears to have largely stayed away from the app on launch day. A screenshot taken from his Truth Social account showed no new posts as of 4 p.m. Eastern Time. His last message was from a week earlier: “Get ready! Your favorite president will see you soon!
Before Twitter permanently banned him from posting last year, Trump had tweeted nearly 60,000 times and had nearly 90 million followers.
As of Monday, his Truth Social subscribers were listed at 12,000.
Trump hopes to leverage outrage over social media bans to attract large audiences to keep the stock rising — and possibly hand him hundreds of millions of dollars personally — but he faces significant challenges. .
None of the alternative messaging platforms already open to the public, such as Gettr and Parler, have been able to go beyond an echo chamber of conservative political commentary.
Trump’s company, Trump Media, also faces financial hurdles. It has been pledged nearly $300 million from a publicly traded company that plans to merge with it and secured pledges from dozens of private investors for an additional $1 billion to fund its operations, but it still needs of regulators’ approval for the deal before they can access the money.
The company it hopes to merge with, Digital World Acquisition Corp., said regulators are investigating following reports that it may have violated security rules last year while speaking with Trump officials about the possibility. to join forces before selling shares to the public. Digital World is a so-called blank check company that is only allowed to go public quickly without much disclosure if it has not yet identified a target to buy.
Another regulatory probe focuses on possible breaches in stock trading earlier in the fall.
Digital World stock investors value its possible merger target, Trump Media, at $10 billion.
Associated Press writers Tali Arbel and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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