Trump’s New Social Network is in Hot Water Due to the Violation of a Software License


Daniel Miller, Staff Writer

Truth Social is the new social network backed by President Donald Trump scheduled to be released later this year. Despite being announced just days ago, Truth Social is already facing trouble.  

A development URL was discovered which gave full access to the site for a short period of time, permitting users to make accounts and briefly use the platform. As screenshots were posted online, people began to notice that the user interface was nearly identical to the open source social network Mastodon. Evidence was in the code as well.  Inspecting the site’s source code reveals the Mastodon code that it was originally derived from. Not only was the code itself left mostly unchanged, but the naming scheme is the same as Mastodon’s. The HTML elements literally have classes with the word “Mastodon” within its name. You can check this out for yourself via the Wayback Machine. Right click to inspect, click on elements, and you’ll be able to see “theme-mastodon-light” as a class in the body tag at the top of the page. You can also see the default Mastodon’s elephant mascot in the error GIF.

“Based on the screenshots I have seen, it absolutely is based on Mastodon”, said the founder and lead developer of Mastodon, Eugen Rochko, in an email to Motherboard. A comment on the matter was posted to Mastodon’s official Twitter account as well.

Mastodon’s code is public for anybody to see and it is licensed under the AGPLv3 license. Mastodon and the open source community follow a philosophy of software freedom. In a nutshell, they believe that software should be free (as in freedom, not price) and modifiable. The GPL family of licenses enforce this philosophy through legal means.  The AGPLv3 license allows for full modification and software freedom, however, official modifications to the code must be made public. For example, if someone wanted to make their own social network based on Mastodon, they can’t simply take the public code and make their edits in private. However, that’s exactly what Truth Social did.

The Truth Social terms of service states that the entire site is proprietary property. This is in direct violation to the AGPLv3 license, which states that modifications to the source code must be disclosed. In response to the violation, the Software Freedom Conservancy has given a 30-day warning to Truth Social.  If they’re still in violation of the license in 30 days, a lawsuit will likely be filed.

There are a few ways Truth Social can get out of this. First, the source code can be made public in order to properly comply with the license. Second, Truth Social can be rewritten using an original codebase at the cost of additional time and hiring actual developers. Third, Truth Social can shut down and not be released. The last option Truth Social can, and most likely will, take is to fight the lawsuit, and lose.