Then there’s Mastodon’s code. Since Truth Social was under development in 2021, the Software Freedom Conservancy accused that of violating a free and open source software license agreement for taking Mastodon’s code. Anyone can use Mastodon’s code, but they must make the source code public. Truth Social called its code “proprietary,” which violated the license agreement. That later added quietly an open source section to its website, acknowledging the open source code and Mastodon.
In addition to its growth, Truth Social has a funding problem: About $1.3 billion in financing is tied up in a merger between Trump Media and Technology Group, which owns Truth Social, and Digital World Acquisition Corp. Federal prosecutors and regulators are investigating the deal, which could push Digital World to liquidate and the funding to evaporate. The clock was ticking with a December 8 deadline for the merger, but shareholders of Digital World voted on Nov. 22 to delay the merger until 2023. Trump Media also reportedly eyed partnerships with right-wing social media sites Rumble and Parler.
This is exactly the kind of problem that something like Mastodon can avoid. It is based on an ideal of decentralization, meaning that it cannot be bought and manipulated by one person because the network consists of more than 7,700 independent servers. Mastodon had explosive growth since Musk bought Twitter, and now has 2.4 million active monthly users, up from 381,000 the day the deal closed.
Truth Social is not decentralized, and it boasts several conservative celebrities, but revolves around Trump and his brand. (He has 4.6 million followers on the platform.) Trump Media and Technology Group did not respond to requests for comment about the site’s size, how it has grown amid recent events, or whether Trump will return to Twitter.
Trump has a vested interest in resurrecting Truth Social, so his reluctance to return to Twitter when Musk first bought the platform and floated the idea made sense. But now that he’s running for president in 2024, it could be difficult and detrimental for Trump to resist the lure of 88 million followers waiting for him on Twitter, compared to less than 5 million on Truth Social. Yet he stays away, for now. “I hear we’re getting a big vote to go back on Twitter as well,” Trump said Saturday. “I don’t see it, because I don’t see any reason for it.”
Trump too reportedly has a contract with Truth Social that requires him to make many of his posts there exclusive for eight hours before appearing on other networks. (There are exceptions for some content directly related to political messaging, fundraising and voter turnout.)
Many people who use alternative platforms like Truth Social still get information from the giants like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, according to the Pew research. Like users of Mastodon, which people signed up for while wearily watching how Twitter might change, Truth Social users can supplement their social media rather than completely replace Twitter. But it’s a good place for breaking news — or at least as the place to watch Trump’s unfiltered reactions. After US federal agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August, the Truth Social app was taken down. increased fivefold.
Neither Mastodon nor Truth Social may ever compete with Twitter. And Trump has remained characteristically vague about his intentions for the bird site he once called home. While Musk posted a poll on Twitter on Nov. 19 asking if he should reinstate Trump’s account, the former president shared it on his Truth Social. “Now vote with positivity, but don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere,” he wrote. “Truth Social is special!”