Trump threatens ‘free speech’ app with legal action, it’s luring his fans

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A mysterious social media app appears to be luring people to pay $4.99 a week to access the app while claiming that President Donald Trump is on the platform.

The ex-president has hit the company with a cease-and-desist letter, The Post has learned. The letter demands that the app stop using Trump’s likeness.

The app, called 2nd1st, is available on Apple’s App Store and bills itself as a place for “uncensored news and chat.”

In addition to Trump, the app features profiles for conservative figures like Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as well as former “The View” host Meghan McCain. 

It’s not clear that any of these people actually uses the platform. After The Post contacted a source close to Trump for this story, attorneys for the ex-president’s team sent the cease-and-desist letter.

2nd1st’s listing on the Apple App Store prominently features a screenshot of a fake post from Trump. It’s actually a copied-and-pasted version of a Jan. 8 tweet in which Trump said — on Twitter, not on 2nd1st — that the people who voted for him “will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future.”

The tweet was cited by Twitter in its blog post about why it banned Trump for allegedly inciting violence.

The app also has a profile page for Trump featuring dozens of other posts — even though the ex-president’s spokeswoman Liz Harrington confirmed to The Post that he doesn’t use the platform.

2nd1st bills $4.99 per week.
Donald Trump is not the only prominent conservative with a profile on the app.

Since Trump was booted from mainstream social media in January, a slate of free speech-oriented platforms have sprouted up in attempts to court the president and his millions of followers. 

Gettr, a Twitter alternative run by former Trump adviser Jason Miller, is pushing to get the ex-president to join the platform, including by reportedly offering him equity. Another free speech app, Parler, has also courted Trump. 

But while Trump has refused so far to join any other new social media platforms, 2nd1st shows that companies are looking to step into the void of his absence from Facebook and Twitter. 

2nd1st appears to be raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When users download 2nd1st, they’re shown videos of Trump rallies and urged to sign up for expensive subscriptions that automatically renew every week. 

“We must not yield to advertisers or cancel culture,” reads the 2nd1st app’s greeting screen. “Start 3 Day Free Trial then $4.99/wk.” 

Other users have been charged $9.99 per week or more, according to listings on the App Store. 

Apple does not disclose how much money apps take in through its store, but 2nd1st currently has 2,800 reviews on the App Store. As a conservative estimate, if all 2,800 reviewers were forking over $4.99 per week, 2nd1st would be taking in around $728,000 per year. 

2nd1st has a 4.4-out-of-5-star rating on the App Store. But some people’s reviews complain about automatically rebilling payments — and the cost for the service.

“I hate this app and want it gone forever,” griped one reviewer.

“The owner just uses the current situation to try to make money… you are as bad as Pelosi!!!” raged another.

The cease-and-desist letter Trump’s attorneys sent to 2nd1st.

In the cease-and-desist letter sent by Trump’s team to 2nd1st, attorneys for the ex-president accused the app of violating “numerous state and federal laws governing misappropriation and right of publicity,” according to a copy of the letter shared with The Post.

“Specifically, it appears the 2nd1st application profile includes images implying President Donald J. Trump uses or otherwise endorses the application, which he does not,” wrote attorney Nathan D. Groth. “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 was sent on Sept. 30 and gave the company two days to “informally resolve this matter.” It threatened to take other “legal action” as needed. As of Tuesday, the image and profile for Trump remained on 2nd1st. Trump’s team appeared to have not yet taken any further action.

While 2nd1st appears to have been raking in thousands of dollars from chagrined conservatives, it’s unclear who exactly is pocketing the money.

The app’s website features no information about its creators. Its privacy policy page says users who want to delete their accounts should contact a support email, but messages The Post sent to that address were bounced back with a “delivery incomplete” message. Trump’s team delivered the letter to another of the app’s email addresses, but did not receive a reply, according to Harrington, the Trump spokeswoman.

2nd1st’s app store page says it is published by a company called Howly Inc., which US Patent and Trademark Office records show is based in Wichita, Kansas.

Documents the company filed with the Kansas secretary of state list a registered agent at a Wichita address. It appears to be a strip mall with a Dunkin’ Donuts, a SuperCuts and a PostNet shipping center. It appears likely the company is using a registered agent service that uses a mailbox at the shipping center as its official address.

State records with the company’s articles of incorporation list a “Shyam Sawant” as a director in the company, which was founded in May 2019.

US Patent and Trademark Office records show 2nd1st’s parent company is registered to a strip mall in Wichita, Kansas.
Google Maps

Buzzfile, a company information database, also lists Howly’s address as the Wichita strip mall. It says the company’s CEO is “Shaym Sawant” and lists a phone number with a New York City area code.

Calls to the number were not answered, and public records pulled by The Post indicate no one named Shyam Sawant lives in the US. However, there are more than 30 LinkedIn profiles for people in India named Shayam Sawant. None mentions Howly, so it’s not clear if any of the people are connected to the firm.

Apple didn’t reply to a request for comment on whether 2nd1st is violating the company’s rules.





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