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Lawyers for former President Donald Trump have sent a cease-and-desist letter to a mysterious social media app that is claiming that Mr Trump, as well as several other prominent conservatives, are using the app.
The letter demands that the app, which offers a three-day free trial but then charges users $4.99 a week, stop using Mr Trump’s likeness, The New York Post reported.
In the app store, the app called 2nd1st says it offers “uncensored news and chat” and includes profiles from several famous conservatives – however, it remains unclear if they actually use the platform.
The app’s description includes a screenshot of a post from Mr Trump that appears to have been fabricated. It’s a post from 8 January, when Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that his voters “will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future”.
The ex-president tweeted the message two days after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to halt the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. The tweet was mentioned in the blog post from Twitter explaining its permanent suspension of Mr Trump for inciting violence.
While the app has a profile for Mr Trump that includes other posts, Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington told The New York Post that Mr Trump doesn’t use the platform.
Following Mr Trump’s permanent and temporary suspensions from several large social media platforms in January, platforms pushing free speech themes have popped up in attempts to attract Mr Trump and his many millions of supporters.
Gettr is a Twitter-like platform run by former Trump aide Jason Miller, who is trying to get his ex-boss to join the app, even offering equity in the company as an incentive. Parler is another platform advertising itself as a free-speech haven that has been trying to get Mr Trump to join the platform.
When 2nd1st is downloaded, videos from Trump rallies play as prospective users are encouraged to sign up for automatically renewing subscriptions.
“We must not yield to advertisers or cancel culture,” the screen that greets users states. “Start 3 Day Free Trial then $4.99/wk.”
Some reviewers blasted the app as a money-grabbing venture.
“I hate this app and want it gone forever,” one reviewer wrote.
“The owner just uses the current situation to try to make money… you are as bad as Pelosi!!!” another added.
The letter from Trump’s lawyers to the app states that the company is breaking “numerous state and federal laws governing misappropriation and right of publicity," The New York Post reported.
“Specifically, it appears the 2nd1st application profile includes images implying President Donald J Trump uses or otherwise endorses the application, which he does not,” attorney Nathan Groth wrote. “2nd1st’s unauthorized use of President Donald J Trump’s name, image, and likeness is likely to lead individuals to believe that President Trump has authorized, sponsored, or approved such application which he does not.”
The letter, sent on 30 September, gave the app two days to “informally resolve this matter" and included a warning that other “legal action” would be taken if necessary.
It remains unconfirmed who is benefitting from the funds gathered by the subscriptions. The app store’s page states that the app is publicized by Howly Inc – a company based in Wichita, Kansas, according to records from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The company has an address registered at a strip mall with a shipping centre where the company could be using a mailbox as an official address through a registered agent service.
Company database Buzzfile lists “Shaym Sawant” as the CEO of Howly, but records show no one with that name living in the US, The Post reported.
Dozens of Indian LinkedIn profiles with that name can be found, but none of them includes information about Howly Inc.