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Now that the meetings have stopped and the tweets have been fact-checked, Trump’s campaign is turning to the smartphone app

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Should US President Donald Trump and Twitter eventually split, his campaign has a backup plan ready to make his voice heard.

Tensions between Mr. Trump and the messaging platform escalated last week after Twitter began tagging some of its tweets with a fact check. Mr. Trump responded with an executive order that threatens to limit a number of legal safeguards against social media companies.

Mr Trump’s campaign has been building an alternative channel for him for months, a smartphone app that aims to become a one-stop news, information and entertainment platform for his supporters, in part due to concerns that the president will have access to the Twitter platform would lose, said its campaign leader, Mr. Brad Parscale.

The Trump app, which launched in April, has since often been in the top 10 of Apple’s list of news apps, sometimes above that of individual news organizations such as CNN, the New York Times and Reuters.

“We have always been concerned that Twitter and Facebook would take us offline and this serves as a backup,” Parscale told Reuters.

He spoke for the first time that Twitter prompted readers to check the facts in last week’s Trump tweets, warning that his allegations about ballot papers were false and debunked by fact checkers.

For supporters, the new app is where they can get the latest campaign news, watch campaign-produced prime-time shows hosted by Trump allies, and earn rewards points by calling or signing up on the app.

The campaign is pandemic evidence to replace Mr Trump’s signature meetings, and an important tool to gather crucial data that can help micro-targeted voters ahead of the November elections. Trump will face the presidential candidate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the November 3 game.

With millions of Americans staying at home and campaign meetings interrupted due to the corona virus, successful digital organizing can make a difference, digital strategists in both sides say.

Signing in to the app requires a mobile number, which allows the campaign to send the user regular text messages praising Mr. Trump or asking for donations.

“The most important, golden thing in politics is a mobile number,” said Parscale, who led Trump’s digital endeavors in 2016 before leading the 2020 campaign. “When we receive cell phone numbers, we can really identify them in the databases. Who are they, voice history, everything.”

Reward points that users can earn by letting other people sign up for the app can be used to purchase campaign materials or even score a meeting with Mr. Trump himself, the campaign said.

‘DIGITAL MOUSETRAP’

Mr. Biden’s campaign also has a phone app, where supporters can donate or volunteer, and text people directly with campaign messages.

But unlike Mr Trump’s app, it offers little information like social media streams or press releases. Nor does it match the virtual campaign events that Mr. Biden held almost daily during the coronavirus pandemic. The app is not ranked by Apple as one of the 200 most popular for news.

The Biden campaign said the app is used almost exclusively to organize supporters, not push content.

According to Mr Stefan Smith, a democratic digital strategist who worked for Mr Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, the Trump app has created a ‘walled garden’ or ‘digital mousetrap’, where voters would ideally stay as long as possible in interact with the steady stream of content from the app.

“The Trump campaign is a media company with an electoral component,” said Smith.

The Trump campaign hired Texas-based company Phunware to build the app.

If they wish, users can rely on the app as a primary, albeit heavily filtered, source of information, one where Mr Trump’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic is defended and the economy is ready for a rapid recovery and federal probe at Mr. Trump’s collusion with Russia was a politically motivated hoax.

Not included is less favorable coverage of the President. Monday (June 1), the app featured a campaign statement set up as a news article stating that Trump had worked to unify the province following national protests over the George Floyd police shooting in Minneapolis.

There was no mention of a militant conference call Trump had with US governors urging them to act more aggressively against the protesters.

Bill Bigby, a Trump supporter in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said the app has now become his go-to source for the latest news.

“We learned that you can’t trust the media to say about Trump,” said 56-year-old Bigby. “They just don’t like him.”

Mr Parscale said that this was exactly the aim of the campaign.

“I think all we do is fight the media,” he said. “This is another tool in the tool shed to fight that fight, and it’s a great tool.”

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