Study Says Trump’s Truth Social Is Much More Aggressive, And Much More Arbitrary, In Moderating Content

from the the-freeze-peach-site dept

As you’ll recall, the defining moment that lead to Donald Trump creating his Truth Social Twitter clone was his being banned from Twitter for potentially egging on further violence on January 6th. Even before Truth Social was started, Trump’s most vocal and loyal… well, let’s just call them “fans,” kept insisting that what was needed was a social media site that didn’t do any moderation at all — or, at the very least, did no moderation based on viewpoint.

Of course, as we’ve explained for years now, such a thing is literally impossible. And every new social media service that pops up promising no moderation learns this the hard way, often to hilarious results. There was Parler, which promised it would only moderate based on “the FCC and the Supreme court of the United States” until it realized that’s not actually a thing, and started banning people for all sorts of things, including “posting pictures of your fecal matter.” Its former CEO also bragged about “banning leftists,” something the website seemed to do with glee.

Then, there was Gettr, another Twitter clone started by former Trump aide (and SLAPP suit filer) Jason Miller with funding from a Chinese billionaire famous for suing news organizations (not very free speechy). Gettr also positioned itself as the “free speech” site that wouldn’t moderate the way Twitter did. Then, when the site was overrun with extreme white nationalists, the site suddenly started banning them. It also would ban users for suggesting its billionaire backer was a spy.

Over and over again, we see that these sites are not only not actually about less moderation and more “free speech” but we see that they’re worse at the moderation game — a lot less principled, and just generally a mess.

Enter Trump’s Truth Social. Announced to great fanfare, and with yet another habitual suer of news organizations, Devin Nunes, put in charge. As we’ve noted, Truth Social has also found it difficult to attract users and prospective users have admitted the site just isn’t that much fun. We’ve also highlighted how, from the beginning Truth Social has quite strict terms of service, and Nunes promised aggressive content moderation (even while framing the site as being more free speech supporting).

We’ve seen some of this play out — for example in banning people for truthing about the January 6th hearings (apparently, not that kind of truth is allowed).

Now, Public Citizen has released a report, looking more closely at Truth Social’s content moderation practices and concluding that content moderation on the site is extremely aggressive and quite arbitrary.

“Truth Social is far from the haven of free speech that Trump promised, as even conservative viewpoints and links have been shadow-banned,” said Cheyenne Hunt-Majer, a fellow for Public Citizen and author of the report. “It’s not at all clear how Truth Social determines which content will be labled as sensitive, why some content is censored after it’s posted, and why other content seems to be preemptively blocked from appearing on the platform at all.”

The report looked at a variety of types of content. Not surprisingly (to anyone paying attention to reality), more progressive messaging was regularly silenced. Again, while Trumpists love to insist that Twitter, Facebook and others are deliberately trying to silence conservative talking points, actual evidence suggests that’s just not true. However, it appears that Truth Social has no problem suppressing content based on political viewpoints:

In June 2022, Truth Social users reported that any post containing the phrase “abortion is healthcare” would automatically be shadow banned from the platform. Much of this report describes my firsthand experience on Truth Social. When I attempted to post the phrase “abortion is healthcare,” I received the standard notification that my “truth had been posted,” which would usually signify that my post would now be visible on my personal profile and on my feed. Instead, the post was nowhere to be found. I made a video explaining that my “truth” had seemingly disappeared into a black hole that went viral on Tik Tok with over 1.2 million views to date. Five days after I initially tried to post my “truth”, after my Tik Tok video attracted such significant attention, it suddenly appeared. As a result, the first interactions with the post including comments and likes are dated five days after the date of posting.

In July 2022, I attempted to post a response to another user’s “truth,” in which he argued that only those that know everything about firearms have the right to protest gun related issues. My response read, “And if you don’t own a uterus and know everything about women’s health, you have NO right to regulate abortion or birth control. When you think they can’t get any more hypocritical, this post says, ‘yes they can.’” That post was similarly blocked and also never showed up on my profile or feed. 

It wasn’t just left-leaning content that was blocked however, The report details tons of other content, including content that would normally be welcomed in the Trump universe that was also blocked.

Users also complained that links to articles on external websites were being blocked. One user suggested that they were unable a link to a Breitbart article claiming that former President Obama was responsible for an influx of crime committed by immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. When I tried to post the link, it never showed up on my profile or feed. Setting aside the merrits of the decision to deplatform the Breitbart article, it’s worth noting that the article doesn’t seem to violate any of their stated terms of service.

The report also found that when content was blocked, there seemed to be no explanation or opportunity to appeal — two other things that Trumpists often insist social media should have.

Again, it shouldn’t necessarily be surprising to anyone that Truth Social is a heavily moderated garbage dump. As we’ve explained so many times, every such website needs to have some level of moderation or they quickly become absolutely useless. It’s also not really much of a surprise that Truth Social is overly aggressive, and somewhat arbitrary in its moderation. As we’ve explained, at scale (even the very small scale of a Truth Social) content moderation is impossible to do well. And, I’d argue it’s even more difficult to be coherent if you don’t fundamentally understand content moderation/trust and safety, and it’s quite clear that this is the case with Truth Social.

However, it would be nice if all the very confident, but very wrong, people who insisted (1) that there should be no moderation at all, and (2) that Trump’s site wouldn’t have any moderation would recognize that they were wrong. And maybe, just maybe, recognize that every time they flipped out over content moderation decisions on other platforms that they didn’t agree with — it was because you’re just not going to agree with how every moderation decision is made.

Somehow, I doubt it. I expect we’ll quickly hear more unproven nonsense about how Twitter and Facebook are obviously against conservatives (they’re not) and excuses for why Truth Social’s content moderation scheme is somehow acceptable (it’s laughable). But, rest assured, if you believe (incorrectly) that content moderation is censorship, then Truth Social is a hell of a lot more censorial than Twitter.

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Companies: public citizen, truth social

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Comments on “Study Says Trump’s Truth Social Is Much More Aggressive, And Much More Arbitrary, In Moderating Content”

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Anonymous Coward says:


The beauty of this method of living life is that it’s the loudest and most powerful that carry the narrative. ANYONE who disagrees on any major talking point is no longer worth listening to, and so no longer allowed to speak. This way, the protective bubble is always preserved, even if the talking points shift over time to be directly opposed to what they once were.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
John85851 (profile) says:

They're wrong?

“… would recognize that they were wrong.”
The problem with this is that if they admit they were wrong about free speech and content moderation, it could lead down a rabbit hole of “what else am I wrong about”.
And they don’t want to go down a path that will make them realize they’re wrong about Trump and they’ve been conned the whole time.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

And yet, you and many others of the TechDirt commentariat keep insisting that the best response to the viewpoint-based censorship of the large generic speech platforms is “go elsewhere”, despite the fact that you also keep pointing out that going elsewhere is no solution at all.

Viewpoint-based censorship is immoral and evil, and the large generic speech platforms should be encouraged not to do it. They are large enough, and have been around long enough, to know the difference between moderation and censorship; now they have to be convinced to embrace the former and reject the latter, and provide tools for users themselves to form narrowly-tailored subgroups.

Anonymous Coward says:


…keep insisting that the best response to the viewpoint-based censorship of the large generic speech platforms is “go elsewhere”, despite the fact that you also keep pointing out that going elsewhere is no solution at all.

You’re misunderstanding – we told you to fuck off somewhere else, where you can make your own rules that we told you wouldn’t work. That you’re only realizing it now is what’s hilarious.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You seem very confused. The notion that one must shop around for places to speak depending on what one wants to say is ridiculous, and violates the principles of free speech. And trying to replicate monstrously huge generic speech platforms simply to set different speech rules is almost guaranteed to fail; if it were doable, it would already be in progress simply as a way to make money.

The solution to viewpoint-based censorship is to convince the large generic speech platforms to stop doing it.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Screaming obscenities in raging fury because you hate having your errors pointed out to you is not going to help your cause (which is good, I suppose).

Truth Social, Parler, Gab, DailyKos, Talking Points Memo, and the like have all constituted themselves as platforms with built-in bias and viewpoint-based censorship. They’re are not, ab initio, places people can go to in order to have free, wide-ranging discussions. The large generic speech platforms, meanwhile, have snuck in their viewpoint-based censorship while pretending to offer such opportunities for discussion. It is those platforms that need to be chastised, corrected, and convinced to stop their censorship. The smaller biased platforms are unlikely to want to stop being echo chambers for their target demographic.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

“Screaming obscenities in raging fury because you hate having your errors pointed out to you is not going to help your cause”

True, but it’s weird that you interpreted that comment in that way.

“Truth Social, Parler, Gab, DailyKos, Talking Points Memo, and the like have all constituted themselves as platforms with built-in bias and viewpoint-based censorship”

Indeed, which is why it’s quite hilarious that the impetus for them to exist was their false claims that mainstream platforms were guilty of the same.

“The large generic speech platforms, meanwhile, have snuck in their viewpoint-based censorship”

Some, not all, but it’s funny that the evidence so far from Facebook is that they were favouring the right wing fringe that still complained.

“It is those platforms that need to be chastised, corrected, and convinced to stop their censorship.”

Why? If large communities tell you that your behaviour is unacceptable, tell you to GTFO and you have other places to go to, why should they be forced to accept you, but the other platforms don’t have to return the favour to those they disagree with?

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

As always, because you like the viewpoint-based censorship the large generic speech platforms are providing, you speak of force even though I have not suggested anything of the sort. Those platforms are behaving badly, contrary to the principles of free speech that are a foundational stance of the US. They should be convinced, not forced, to do better.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

I think, think, HR has a good intention in his idea.
But in politics, political speech…?

He’s beating a frozen and preserved but long since dead mammoth.

Again my censorship thoughts come from art and predate modern politics.the war agains horror and fantasy films in the 70s and 80s!

But I’ve seen this exact same 50-foot-thick wall before.
Nintendo. NES!
When you can’t win, screw it and make your own. And we got non-licensed NES games. Some were good (Tetris), some controversial but still not *bad
, (Custer’s Revenge) and some… some… well: see beat em and eat ‘em.

Want a more recent example? Sony and the PS4/5
And the reason I wiped and sold my 4 pro. Despite many hundreds of dollars of paid games.
Sony removed the summersault flip from Bunny Must Die. Making one of the best Metroid-like platformers in modern times un-winnable.

And here’s the thing. Just like Sony today, you’re not going to change the mind of twitter or Facebook. So move on.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sadly, no

Sorry HR. I totally disagree here.

I want you to understand exactly what you’re demanding.
Forced platforming
Forced speech

Forced in private.

Think about. Christian book shoppe being forced to carry trans world and the satanic mass.
Do you really want Angel Books and Film to be carrying The US guide to Abortion Clinics? Or The Preparation and Rites of the Demonic Black Mass?

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

No, I do not, and have not, demanded that anyone be forced to carry anything. I merely criticize large generic speech platforms for carrying out viewpoint-based censorship, and I hope that with sufficient criticism, they will see the error of their ways and change.

Size and specificity matter. A bookstore that styles itself as Christian is expected by everyone to mostly carry books for that specific demographic. A huge bookseller like Amazon, on the other hand, should not be refusing to sell books because of the viewpoint expressed by those books.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

Size and specificity matter.

No, they fucking don’t. Amazon and the hypothetical Christian bookstore both have the same right to decide what books they will and won’t stock for sale. To require one of those outlets to sell certain books while allowing the other to refuse selling those same books is to say “at a certain point, your civil rights stop mattering to the law”.

Context is also important in this regard. If that Christian bookstore were the only bookstore in a given town, should it be forced by law to carry non-Christian holy books, since no one else would likely be selling those books in that town?

Once again, your entire schtick is exposed as wanting the law to force certain kinds of speech onto platforms that choose not to carry it. No law should force Amazon to carry any kind of book unless you’re willing to say the same damn thing about a small Christian bookstore that is the only bookseller in a given town. I don’t think you’re willing to do that⁠—or, at the very least, your TERF-workshopped “free speech” and “wokeness” scripts don’t have a response for this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The solution to viewpoint-based censorship is to convince the large generic speech platforms to stop doing it.

The solution is for some people to realize that what they have to say is not popular, and that most people do not wish to listen to or associate with them. Also, without viewpoint moderation, those who shout the loudest will dominate conversation, and those people are only interested in speech that they agree with.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

Censorship is the act of the censor. When the large generic speech platforms ban certain viewpoints, they are committing censorship regardless of the availability of other places to speak.

It is obviously false for the same actions to not be considered censorship as long as those actions are not carried out in the very last place to speak. You would like to have that be otherwise because you enjoy the censorship the large generic platforms are providing for you.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

The problem many Democrats have is they just can’t stand to see Republicans be correct on something. Even if only partly correct.
Fact, Facebook censored
Fact, Twitter occasionally censors
Fact, Truth censors.

Fact, not a damn thing can or should be changed.

Republicans, should all head over to truth and gab and whatever and move on.

Because fact, you have no more right to force speech via government than you have right to block speech via government.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

I have never asked for anyone to be forced to allow speech

And yet, you believe Twitter should host all legally protected speech. “Should” implies “must”, and that implies enforcement. You can’t make Twitter host all legally protected speech by asking them to do that⁠—so how do you plan to make them do that without resorting to some form of legal enforcement that says “host this speech or else”, you fucking fascist?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You seem very confused.

Not at all.

See, I’m a big fan of folks who tell other folks to do what they themselves are incapable of doing. They never disappoint when they fail miserably, and then show up to tell the rest of us what we did wrong.

Now with Truth Social censoring its users despite all that freeze speech blathering, I’d suggest taking your issue to the group that was complaining about it in the first place.

You seem to have all the solutions.

Now fuck off and make them work, dumbass. Show us how it’s done! Put up or shut up!

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

Well, the article clearly states why. Lots of stuff out there Amazon doesn’t carry though.
The author can always create a listing and self sell. At least try. Which as a private listing doesn’t make Amazon a carriage supporter.

Like ebay decimating mondo-film trading and erotic horror/fantasy by shutting down the adult section, companies make their own choices.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

Amazon, to my best of guesses, believes in (or wants to be seen as believing in) the modern, fictitious, beliefs that hosting something is the same as agreeing with it.
And since the board has its own viewpoint on what it believes, or wants to be seen as believing, in regard to certain topics, it makes decisions on what it will and will not allow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3

I see.

Then there’s really no point to this discussion, is there?

The RWNJ’s bitch about Twitter. They make their own freeze peach nuthouse on the hill that turns out to be a clone of what they were complaining about in the first place.

Then they come back and bitch about Twitter some more.

This is why I don’t give anything resembling a shit about all of the grievances they have. Because when they get a chance to show us how it’s supposed to be done, they fail miserably, and return to perpetual complaining.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

The point of the discussion is that the large generic speech platforms are engaging in viewpoint-based censorship, and they should be criticized for that, and convinced to stop. That other newer and smaller platforms do the same is evidence that the “go elsewhere” nonsense promulgated by people here because they like that censorship is useless; those platforms are even less likely to support free speech. Even the TechDirt comment section is censored for me personally by Masnick, whose free speech principles fall by the wayside when he encounters opinions that he both hates and are not so out of the mainstream that few would accept them. Then they’re “hate speech”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The notion that one must shop around for places to speak depending on what one wants to say is ridiculous, and violates the principles of free speech.

You’re misphrasing that. Going to another platform isn’t shopping around for places to speak. It’s using available, private services that have terms of use and usage guidelines akin to going into someone else’s house or private business and they have posted signs saying don’t shit on the floor. The principles of free speech do not allow for you to go into someone else’s private space, say absolutely anything you want, and remain there against the desires of the people who own or run the place. These are not public spaces just because members of the public can go into them and use them. “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is an established right for business owners/operators. They can refuse service for anything other than federally protected classes. The 1st Amendment does not protect you from private moderators or censors.

katsai (profile) says:

Someone is missing from this comment thread

I can’t put my finger on who it is, but I know there’s someone who insists that all moderation on social media is evil censorship and shouldn’t happen. Since I can’t think of his name, I’ll just use a totally made up one. I’ll call him Koby. Anyone seen him? Or did he trip over his blankie in his rush to decry this horrible example of “censorship” and knock himself unconscious?

Naughty Autie says:

I disagree that ‘Truth’ Social’ is arbitrary in its moderation practices because its pretty consistent in blocking and/or banning over content it doesn’t like. Instead, I believe it’s arbitrary over what it does like, since it will ban for behaviour regarding some subjects that it will allow regarding others. Just my take.

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