Former President Donald Trump pitched his new social media platform, Truth Social, as a haven for free speech and a counterweight to the big tech giants that have in recent years put a greater emphasis on moderating content users post to their sites.
But as the platform's terms of service agreement makes clear, not all speech will be permitted. Specifically, users are prohibited from speaking ill of the platform itself or its leadership.
Announced Wednesday, Truth Social will be part of the Trump Media & Technology Group, which also plans to launch a subscription video service for what it called "non-woke" programming. The company said it plans to begin a beta launch next month with a nationwide rollout early next year.
Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday that the new site will be "a platform for everyone to express their feelings."
But as stated in the agreement users must submit to when creating a profile, Truth Social says users cannot "disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site." There are also clauses stating that users cannot "harass, annoy, intimidate, or threaten any of our employees or agents engaged in providing any portion of the Site to you" and that Truth Social reserves "the right to remove, reclaim, or change a username you select if we determine, in our sole discretion, that such username is inappropriate, obscene, or otherwise objectionable."
On Apple's App Store, where Truth Social is available for preorder, the platform is pitched as encouraging "an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology," and states that varying political viewpoints are "welcome."
Nicholas Weaver, a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, told NBC News moderation decisions will greatly influence what kind of platform Truth Social becomes.
"If you don't moderate heavily, you will end up with 8chan and a festering fever swamp of crap, and if you do, what is the advantage over Twitter?" he said.
Banned from platforms such as Twitter and Facebook following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump has for months been rumored to be seeking the creation of his own platform to rebuild his social media presence. He has also sued Facebook, Twitter and Google to try and force them to reinstate him and some of his supporters.
Just hours after Wednesday's announcement, Twitter users hacked into what they believed to be a beta version of the social platform, creating mock accounts for Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. Pranksters additionally posted a photo of a defecating pig on the fake Trump page. That website, tmediatech.io, went offline soon after. It was not immediately clear whether that site is connected to Truth Social, and a representative for the social media platform did not respond to questions from NBC News.
"Letting it open was exactly asking for pig manure," Weaver said.
On its App Store preview, the program looks virtually identical to Twitter. Messages on the site are called "Truths," which look similar to tweets and can be reposted by other users, much like a retweet. The site's code shows it utilizing a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, an open-source software that allows for people to run a self-made social platform.
Trump's foray into the social media world comes as conservatives in recent years have sought to launch their own social media and video platforms to counteract as a response to the moderation they face on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Patriots.win, Gab, Parler and GETTR are just some of the websites that have become a haven in some conservative circles.
GETTR, run by former Trump spokesman Jason Miller, had sought to bring Trump on board to bolster its standing on the right.
"Congratulations to President Trump for re-entering the social media fray! Now Facebook and Twitter will lose even more market share," Miller said in a statement. "President Trump has always been a great deal-maker, but we just couldn’t come to terms on a deal."