Mastodon Calls Out Trump’s Social Network For Improperly Using Its Code

You might recall that Donald Trump was trying to set up a social network, and it promptly got pwned within hours. Not only that, it was using an open source social networking platform called Mastodon improperly. And I speculated that this would become a problem for Trump.

Surprise, it’s now a problem for Trump according to The Verge:

This news comes from a blog post by Mastodon’s founder Eugen Rochko, but others have previously pointed out that the organization behind Truth, the Trump Media and Technology Group (or TMTG), was violating Mastodon’s software license by not providing the source code for the site built on top of it. Trump’s group has 30 days from when the letter was sent to comply with the license or stop using the software, or it could lose the right to do so. 

While Truth hasn’t officially launched yet, internet users discovered that a test version basically had the same interface as Mastodon, and that some of the code for the site was unchanged from the other social network’s code. By itself, that’s actually the intended use of open-source software — but as the Software Freedom Conservancy pointed out last week, apps or websites based on software that uses the AGPLv3 license have to in turn provide their own source code. According to the foundation that wrote AGPL, it’s meant to make the community’s software better: if you improve on something that someone else made, they should be able to benefit from your work like you did theirs. 

As Mastodon and Rochko reiterated on Friday, though, TMTG hasn’t done that — it even went as far as to call its software “proprietary,” and seemingly tried to hide the fact that it was based on Mastodon. Now that the Truth has been revealed, however, TMTG will either have to rebuild it without using Mastodon’s code — a tall order, as bootstrapping a social network site isn’t particularly easy — or release its source code and change the terms of service.

Now it will be interesting to see what Trump’s team does. Do the publish the code or start over scratch? And it will be interesting to see what Mastodon does if Trump’s team doesn’t comply. I am betting the word “lawsuit” will enter the conversation.

Stay tuned folks.

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