“Truth Social”: Trump’s social network is said to have violated open source license

Donald Trump’s alternative social network Truth Social has not yet officially started, but is already causing conflicts: The US non-profit organization Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) is accusing Truth Social of violating the Affero General Public License (AGPLv3). According to the organization, there are clear indications that Trump’s network is based on code from the Twitter-like service Mastodon, which is under this open source license. Anyone who continues to use code under AGPLv3 in this way must then also follow the license and make the mastodon code modified by hand accessible. That is exactly what did not happen.

Former US President Trump announced the establishment of the new platform on Wednesday. He had the money to start his own publicly traded media company. US reports according to Shortly thereafter, a version of the network, probably intended as a test, was online, which numerous people, including hackers and journalists, immediately accessed and set up accounts. Activists flooded the platform with fake profiles and protest memes.

Numerous screenshots that pointed to similarities to Mastodon were also circulating on other social media – including, for example References in the HTML code of the page or using the same mascot on an error page. “Well, that looks familiar,” commented the mastodon makers on Twitter.

Truth Social should have made it possible for these early users to view the source code and license conditions, argues Bradley M. Kuhn from the SFC in a blog post. Trump’s media group behind the social network must now comply with this disclosure obligation within 30 days, otherwise their rights to the software would lapse. “This is how the AGPLv3 legislation works without exception – even if you are a real estate mogul, reality TV star or even a former US president,” said Kuhn.

Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko told various US mediathat, judging by the circulating images, Truth Social clearly made use of Mastodon. He wanted to first seek legal advice on the matter. “Compliance with our AGPLv3 license is very important to me because it is the basis on which I and other developers are willing to pass years of work on for free.” Rochko left the question of whether he wanted to take legal action uncommented.

Trump’s media group has not yet commented on the matter. The network should start for invited guests in November, and then nationwide in early 2022, according to the announcement on Wednesday. The aim is to stand up to the “tyranny” of the big tech companies. “We live in a world in which the Taliban have a huge presence on Twitter, but your dearest American president has been silenced,” said Trump.

There is currently not much to see on the homepage, except for the announcement of the service. You can sign up for a waiting list, there are usage and data protection rules. There is also a link to a free iPhone app, which has not yet been released.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube blocked Trump’s accounts in January just before the end of his term in office. The trigger was the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of Trump – and that he expressed sympathy for the attackers. He also continues to claim, without any evidence, that his presidential election victory in November was stolen by fraud. With that he heated up the mood in the country.

More than 80 million users followed Trump on Twitter – it was the most important communication platform for him until the ban. The ex-president has been taking legal action against blocking his account for a long time.


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