Trump Truth Social site broke software rules, copyleft group says

The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) claims that former President Donald Trump’s new social network violated a free and open source software license agreement by ripping off decentralized social network Mastodon. The Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) has 30 days to comply with the terms of the license before its access is terminated, forcing it to rebuild the platform or face legal action.

TMTG yesterday launched a fundraising effort for a special purpose acquisition company with the promise of building a vast media empire. Its only product to date is a social network called Truth Social which appears to be heavily derived from Mastodon. While anyone can freely reuse Mastodon’s code (and groups like the right-wing social network Gab have already done so), they must still comply with the Affero General Public License (or AGPLv3) that governs this code. , and its terms include offering their own source code to all users.

Truth Social does not respect this license and, in fact, qualifies its service as “proprietary”. Its developers apparently attempted to clean up references that would make the Mastodon connection clear – at one point list an “observation” of the Mastodon logo as a bug – but included direct references to Mastodon in the underlying HTML code of the site as well as obvious visual similarities.

TMTG’s strategy has not worked well with SFC, an organization that enforces free and open source software licenses. “The license deliberately treats everyone equally (even people we don’t like or approve of), but they must operate under the same rules as the copyleft licenses that apply.” everyone, ”SFC policy member Bradley Kuhn wrote in a blog post. “Today we saw the Trump Media and Technology Group ignore these important rules – which were designed for the good of society.”

Truth Social has not been officially launched. But users could access a test version of the platform, where many of them created prank accounts that flooded the service with fake corporate ads and even fake messages from Donald Trump. (The platform has since been replaced by a waiting list.) The SFC requires that TMTG provide all such users with access to the source code of Truth Social. “If they don’t do this within 30 days, their rights and permissions in the software are automatically and permanently terminated,” Kuhn explains.

If Truth Social fails to make the source code available, the SFC could sue him for violating the terms of the license he used. Earlier this year, the group sued electronics maker Vizio for “repeated failures to meet even basic requirements” for free software licenses. “We will follow this issue very closely and demand that Trump’s Group provide the corresponding source to everyone who uses the site,” Kuhn writes.

Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko also said yesterday that he intended to seek legal advice on the situation, although he did not discuss a specific course of action. “Compliance with our AGPLv3 license is very important to me because it is the only basis on which I and other developers are willing to offer years of work for free,” he said. Discussion Notes.

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