Trump's TRUTH Social platform set to avoid legal action after acknowledging source code

Former US President Donald Trump
The creator of the original code had sent a letter to the platform's legal team. Photo credit: Getty Images

Donald Trump's new social media platform looks set to avoid a potentially costly legal issue after finally acknowledging it is based on open-source software.

The former reality TV star and US President's TRUTH Social platform was announced in October and the technology community quickly noticed a strong resemblance to existing software called Mastodon.

That is an open-source, decentralised social network that allows people to create their own platform, but comes with certain requirements in order to be used.

One of those is to make the source code plus any modifications publicly accessible, something TRUTH Social didn't do.

Indeed, the published terms and service of the website even claimed the site was proprietary and all source code and software was owned or controlled by them or licensed to them.

That drew a strong rebuke and a letter to the Trump platform's chief legal officer from Mastodon's founder Eugen Rochko. 

"We pride ourselves on providing software that allows anyone to run their own social media platform independent of big tech," Rochko wrote on Mastodon's blog at the time.

"The condition upon which we release our work for free in the first place is the idea that, as we give to the platform operators, so do the platform operators give back to us by providing their improvements for us and everyone to see."

However the TRUTH Social website now includes a link to download Mastodon's source code, along with a dig the 'Big Tech' that necessitated setting up the site in the first place.

"Our goal is to support the open-source community no matter what your political beliefs are," the site said.

"That's why the first place we go to find amazing software is the community and not 'Big Tech'."

TRUTH Social had 30 days after receiving the letter to comply with the AGPLv3 license Mastodon was released under or face revocation of the license.

"We haven't received any communication back from them, but they've uploaded a ZIP archive of the source code, which for now seems to bring them in compliance," Rochko told website PCMag in an email. 

If it had continued to use the code after that point, it would have resulted in a violation of copyright. This would have given Mastodon the opportunity to take legal action against TRUTH Social.