social media framework site Mastodon has issued Truth Social, former President Donald Trump’s social media platform, a 30 day warning over allegations that it misused Mastodon’s code.
Mastodon is a free, open-source software that allows individuals to host their own social networks. It has been described as a ‘micro-blogging’ platform, with some similarities to Twitter.
According to Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko in an open letter posted to its site, TRUTH Social seems to be claiming Mastodon’s open-source code as its own, without credit.
While TRUTH Social has not officially been launched yet, some users have been able to access the site and create accounts.
As pointed out by ReviewGeek, the platform was compromised almost immediately after it was announced. A number of users were able to access a beta version of TRUTH Social, with journalist Mikael Thalen setting up an account with the handle @donaldtrump.
It was these early users who noticed that TRUTH Social uses the Mastodon code.
Rochko’s statement says: “It seems that the new social media platform owned by the former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, so-called Truth Social, is using Mastodon’s source code with various visual adjustments.”
Mastodon is primarily concerned about a passage in TRUTH Social’s terms of service, which claims that its source code and software are owned and controlled by the platform, or licensed to it – not to Mastodon.
Specifically, the terms of service read: “unless otherwise indicated, the Site is our proprietary property and all source code, databases, functionality, software, website designs, audio, video, text, photographs, and graphics on the Site (collectively, the “Content”) and the trademarks, service marks, and logos contained therein (the “Marks”) are owned or controlled by us or licensed to us, and are protected by copyright and trademark laws and various other intellectual property rights and unfair competition laws of the United States, foreign jurisdictions, and international conventions.”
Rochko’s statement points out that, “notably, neither the terms nor any other part of the website contained any references to Mastodon, nor any links to the source code, which are present in Mastodon’s user interface by default.”
“Mastodon is free software published under the AGPLv3 license, which requires any over-the-network service using it to make its source code and any modifications to it publicly accessible.”
According to Rochko, Mastodon sent a formal letter to TRUTH Social’s chief legal officer on October 26, asking that the source code is made publicly available, in compliance with the license.
The AGPLv3 (GNU Affero General Public License) requires that within 30 days, TRUTH Social must either comply or risk having its license revoked permanently.
Non-profit, the Software Freedom Conservancy, which enforces software licenses like these, has said TRUTH Social must comply with the license: “that’s how AGPLv3’s cure provision works – no exceptions – even if you’re a real estate mogul, reality television star, or even a former POTUS”
Prior to sending the letter, Rochko told Vice Motherboard that “based on the screenshots I have seen, [TRUTH Social] is absolutely based on Mastodon.”
According to Rochko, as reported in the Vice article, a screenshot of an error message on TRUTH Social used Mastodon’s default icon, an elephant.
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