A Blake Shelton quote about guns. A Breitbart article blaming former President Barack Obama for immigrants’ crimes. A post slamming Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
On the surface, none of these have anything in common. But they’re all prohibited on Truth Social. The Daily Dot found that the platform automatically removes posts containing each. Users broadly complain that its artificial intelligence (AI) and moderators are arbitrarily deleting and shadow banning posts based on incomprehensible and inconsistent standards.
Truth Social is the new media platform former President Donald Trump launched as a retort to getting booted from Twitter. His site holds itself out to be “America’s ‘Big Tent’ social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating on the basis of political ideology.”
In practice, however, Truth Social uses a heavy hand to police content. Users frequently complain that their posts simply vanish without warning or explanation based on unknown guidelines.
Cheyenne Hunt-Majer experienced this firsthand. Hunt-Majer, a Facebook accountability fellow at nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, recently posted the phrase “abortion is healthcare” on the platform after seeing complaints that it wouldn’t let people post it. She says her post simply disappeared.
A few days later, Hunt-Majer made a TikTok about Truth Social vanishing her post about reproductive rights.
“Even though I got a notification that my posts went up, they never showed up anywhere on my feed or on my profile,” she explained.
She concluded that this means that prohibited terms, combinations of words, and/or phrases are “already preemptively coded into the website.”
“That’s like an unprecedented level of censorship for a platform,” she told the Daily Dot in a phone conversation Wednesday morning.
Hunt-Majer said that she’d started the project in her personal capacity, but when she informed her boss about what she’d found, he asked her to look into it. She’s continuing to test the limits of what you can say the platform. Those limits, she says, are unclear.
Hunt-Majer’s TikTok went viral. As of this writing, it’s been viewed more than 400,000 times.
As it climbed in views, something strange happened, Hunt-Majer said. Her post randomly reappeared on Truth Social.
The Daily Dot confirmed that the post now shows up on her profile.
She posted it on June 16. There are no comments on it until June 21, after she posted the TikTok about it.
In a follow-up TikTok, Hunt-Majer opined that the platform restored her post in an effort to cover its tracks because she “publicly embarrassed” it.
“I definitely don’t think it was a coincidence that the phrase didn’t work until I started publicly outing them about it,” she told the Daily Dot.
Truth Social’s parent company didn’t respond to an emailed inquiry on Wednesday.
In January, Insider reported that the platform planned to use AI to enforce its terms of service. Those terms are stricter than most other platforms. In an effort to be “family-friendly,” Truth Social bans bullying, spam, sexually explicit content, hate speech, and posts that include violence.
The Daily Dot previously reported that it also suspends parody accounts in spite of technically allowing them. Others have complained about their posts being hidden behind disclaimers.
Complaints about censorship are rampant on Truth Social.
On Wednesday, the Daily Dot found numerous posts from users complaining about their content simply vanishing. In one instance, a user called the Ukraine war a “joke,” disparaged Zelenskyy, and said anyone who supported Ukraine is “an idiot.” Another complained that the platform automatically deleted their post linking to a Breitbart article blaming former President Barack Obama for crimes committed by beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, commonly known as “dreamers.”
Yet another said they tried to post the below Blake Shelton quote about guns. “They censored the words of this meme,” they wrote, “odd.”
The Daily Dot attempted to post these quotes and the Breitbart link. In each instance, the post prompted a message that it was successful. Then it vanished. One has since returned.
Conservatives are among those complaining about Truth Social deleting their posts.
On Wednesday, a prominent right-wing account posted a screenshot of an email from Truth Social explaining that it had removed their post. That post blasted the “14 backstabbing low-life, sellout, gun-grabbing Republican Senators who voted with the Democrats on gun control. Never give another dime to the GOP—they hate you.”
The email appeared to blame a mix of AI and human moderators. “Assisted by technology, our moderators use their best judgment to ensure compliance with our terms of service,” the email reads.
Commenters were outraged. “I thought the point of this platform was not to be censored,” wrote one.
Hunt-Majer said that her tests are finding that Truth Social’s enforcement of its standards is extremely uneven. She pointed to posts about the Jan. 6 committee. Earlier this month, Vanity Fair reported that people were getting suspended for posting about it. Hunt-Majer said she’s found that some posts go through and others vanish.
“It’s almost like they’re getting blocked at random, which can’t be the case, but it almost seems like it,” she said.
“Clearly their censorship lacks the fundamental nuance expected of a major social media platform,” she added.
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*First Published: Jun 23, 2022, 8:10 am CDT