After months of wrangling with Google, former US President Donald Trump’s social media app Truth Social can now be downloaded on the Google Play Store. Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook after the violent events at the Capitol in January 2021.
Axios first reported Wednesday that Google approved the app, nearly two months after its submission was blocked. Soon after, Truth Social went live for download on the Play Store.
"Apps may be distributed on Google Play provided they comply with our developer guidelines, including the requirement to effectively moderate user-generated content and remove objectionable posts such as those that incite violence," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
The Truth Social app was already available for download on Apple’s app store. But nearly half of all US smartphone users rely on Google’s Android operating system, making the Play Store their primary way to download and access apps.
Google blocked the app’s submission from the store in August for violating moderation guidelines. These apply to all apps featuring user-generated content: its moderation policies must robustly prevent illegal content, hate speech, and content that incites violence.
Social media-oriented apps must also provide a system for users to report violent content.
According to Axios, Truth Social had to enforce its own website policies that forbid, for example, stirring up violence. Truth Social has been working to update its policies for almost two months.
However, a few workarounds meant that the app was available to Android users even while it was blocked in the Play Store. A side-loaded version was available for download from the Truth Social website, it was also inserted in the Samsung Galaxy Store catalog.
Trump launched Truth Social in February and touted the platform as a free-speech alternative to Twitter and Facebook – social media giants which banned him after the January 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
Social media and the former president have had an interesting relationship, letting Trump successfully exploit Facebook and especially Twitter on his way to the presidency. Social networks allowed him to circumnavigate skeptical mainstream media and the Republican party gatekeepers.
Twitter and Facebook initially accommodated Trump, despite him fairly clearly and regularly breaching their terms of service, for example, freely retweeting anrtisemitic memes.. However, the calculus later changed, in particular when the protests started following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
The then-president tweeted a threat that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter restricted (but did not remove) the post due to its glorification of violence and later suspended Trump’s account after he played a significant role in instigating the January 6 riots at the Capitol.
Apple and Google also chose to remove Parler, a fringe far-right social network operating beneath the veneer of ideological impartiality and free speech, from its respective app stores.
The January 6 committee investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol voted unanimously to subpoena Trump to testify before the committee.
However, the formal subpoena is almost certain to be ignored by the former president, and the clock is ticking. If the Republican party takes over the House of Representatives after the midterm elections next month, the committee will most likely be shuttered.
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