The Software Freedom Conservancy, which enforces open-source software agreements, said Trump’s Truth Social website — launched by the newly formed Trump Media & Technology Group — failed to provide the source code to users, as required under the Affero General Public License (AGPL), a “copyleft license” published by the Free Software Foundation.
Truth Social’s site was using the free, open-source Mastodon social networking software, which is governed by the AGPL. TMTG ignored the licensing terms and “once caught in the act, Trump’s Group scrambled and took the site down,” Bradley Kuhn, policy fellow and hacker-in-residence at Software Freedom Conservancy, wrote in a blog post Thursday.
To comply with the Mastodon software license, “Trump’s Group needs to immediately make that Corresponding Source [code] available to all who used the site today while it was live,” Kuhn continued. “If they fail to do this within 30 days, their rights and permissions in the software are automatically and permanently terminated.” Earlier this week, SFC sued TV manufacturer Vizio over a similar licensing violation.
Reps for Trump’s TMTG did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.
On Wednesday, Trump Media & Technology Group announced plans to launch a Truth Social app in beta on an invitation-only basis in November with a public rollout slated for the first quarter of 2022. TMTG said its mission is to “create a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s Truth Social site was immediately targeted by pranksters: Someone who signed up with the username “donaldjtrump” posted a photo of a defecating pig on the site, the Washington Post reported. Truth Social is now accepting signups on a waitlist.
According to Kuhn, SFC found no evidence that someone illegally hacked the website. The Truth Social site “was simply deployed live early as a test, and without proper configuration,” he wrote. “Once discovered, people merely used the site legitimately to register accounts and use its features.”
The SFC’s allegations that TMTG violated open-source licensing guidelines was first reported by the Verge.
Trump, a notorious fountain of falsehoods, is launching the ironically named Truth Social after he was permanently banned by Twitter and suspended or blocked by all major internet platforms earlier this year.
The last straw came over Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol during which he expressed support for rioters who were trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. This summer, the ex-president sued Facebook, Twitter and Google alleging they violated his First Amendment rights; however, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prohibit private companies from restricting speech and internet services are allowed under U.S. law to remove harmful content.
TMTG, which also said it will launch a subscription-streaming service with “non-woke” programming, plans to become a publicly traded entity through a proposed merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Nasdaq-traded shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. have shot up more than 800% since the announcement of the planned combination with Trump Media & Technology Group.
According to Truth Social’s current terms of service, users must be at least 13 (and anyone under 18 in relevant jurisdictions must have consent of a legal guardian to join). Users may not “trick, defraud, or mislead us and other users,” per the TOS. The site also says users’ accounts may be terminated if they “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site” or because of “excessive use of capital letters.”