Then presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a presidential debate with nominee Hillary Clinton on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump's Truth Social platform has seen a huge increase in user numbers as a direct result of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago.The week after the search took place, the number of Truth Social app downloads jumped by almost 550% compared to the previous week, according to figures shared with VICE News by Data AI, a company that tracks app downloads that was formerly known as App Annie.
In the days after the FBI search, Trump used the platform to rail against the agency, rile up his supporters, and share conspiracy theories from QAnon believers. On Thursday, Trump used his platform to share an article that suggested he will seek retribution against those who carried out the search if he becomes president again. Some Truth Social users have also been calling for “civil war” as a result of the FBI search. “Is the FBI provoking the 80 million patriots to start a civil war?” one user wrote in a post. “Lock and Load,” another wrote.In the week prior to the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, the Truth Social app was downloaded less than 20,000 times, averaging around 2,500 downloads per day from Apple’s app store.However in the week after the search, details of which were first announced publicly by Trump himself on Truth Social, it was downloaded 107,500 times, an average of 13,400 per day.These figures closely match those produced by Similarweb, a digital intelligence company.
The spike in downloads mirrors a significant uptick in Trump’s own use of his platform, which he had been using sporadically since it launched in February.From the beginning, Truth Social has been beset by technical problems. There was initially a huge backlog of users who simply couldn’t get onto the platform. It was also only available on Apple’s platform; there is still no Android app available (it’s “coming soon,” the company says) and registrations are currently closed for new users, according to platform's website.Still, Truth Social has now been downloaded almost 3 million times, according to Data AI’s figures. This is a fraction of the number of people using mainstream platforms like Twitter or Facebook, and even pales in comparison to the tens of millions of people using far-right sites like Gab every month.Three days after the search, Ricky Shiffer entered the FBI office in Cincinnati with a nail gun and an AR-style rifle. An account with the same name had been using Truth Social prolifically in the days leading up to the attack, calling on “patriots” to go to Florida and kill federal agents.He was shot and killed following a standoff with police after his failed attack on the FBI offices, but not before he posted one final message to Truth Social: “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I. and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops,” he wrote. Truth Social did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the FBI office shooter or the spike in users following the Mar-a-Lago search.