Trump’s Truth App Gets Formal Demand To Stop Violating Software License

It's a step that could end in the license being revoked.
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Andy JACOBSOHN / AFP) (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump’s new TRUTH social network is in violation of the software license it’s built on and must get in compliance, the holder of the license demanded this week.

The company that holds the software license for the open source code sent TRUTH Social, the Trump-founded venture, a letter demanding compliance with its software license, Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko said in a statement.

Rochko told TPM last week that he believed an early version of Trump’s network was using open-source software that he developed, called Mastodon, without abiding by the terms of the license that make it available to use.

“Truth Social is required to make its complete source code available,” the letter reads. “We request that Truth Social comply with this important condition of the license.”

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Rochko said in the statement that though he would “prefer if people so antithetical to our values did not use and benefit from our labour,” the reality of open-source, free software means that “you give up the possibility of choosing who can and cannot use it from the get-go.

“So in a practical sense the only issue we can take with something like Truth Social is if they don’t even comply with the free software license we release our work under,” Rochko said.

The letter, sent on Tuesday, triggers a 30-day response period for Trump to comply with the terms of the license. The Mastodon license mandates that people who use the code for their own projects – including TRUTH Social – make a copy of the altered software publicly available.

TRUTH Social does not appear to have done that. The company did not immediately reply to TPM’s inquiry regarding how it planned on responding to the letter.

Rochko said in the statement that TRUTH appeared to be using Mastodon’s software “with various visual adjustments.”

“Users were quick to note that the terms of service included a worrying passage, claiming that the site is proprietary property and all source code and software are owned or controlled by them or licensed to them,” Rochko added.

If Trump refuses to comply with Rochko’s demand within the 30-day period, that could result in the license being revoked, and in eventual legal action from Mastodon. Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which consulted with Mastodon on the TRUTH Social matter, told TPM last week that TRUTH could simply comply with the license.

Another option could be to cease use of the code – requiring them to spend the massive amount of time and money it takes to build a social network from scratch.

“If they never want to give the source code to anybody, they could just not use Mastodon,” Kuhn told TPM. “Ceasing use is always an option for compliance.”

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