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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

When Donald Trump rolled out his brand new social media platform for deplorables, TRUTH Media, the clock started ticking on how soon it would crash and burn like Parler, Gab and other deplorable alternatives to Twitter.


TRUTH Media got off to a bumpy start when Wall Street investors discovered that they were actually investing in TRUTH Media's parent company, Trump Media and Technology Group. Most of Trump Media's funding came from Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company created with the purpose of acquiring an already-existing private company, thus taking the private company public. The investors in a SPAC don't know the identity of their target—and at least one investor has already decided to head for the exits after finding out he was bankrolling Trump.

But Trump might have been able to survive that. However, in the last 24 hours, a development has come to light that might be harder for him to weather. It seems that he lifted the code for TRUTH Media without properly crediting the code's author. And the author is already making noises about taking Trump to court.

TRUTH Media claims to be built on "proprietary" source code. But Gizmodo's Lucas Ropek noticed that a number of early users of TRUTH Media discovered unmistakable similarities between TRUTH Media's code and that of the open-source social media platform Mastodon.

According to Vice, one of those early users, Mikael Thalen of Daily Dot, tweeted a screenshot of a parody Trump account he created. Mastodon's official Twitter couldn't help but notice the similarities.

Later, another user tweeted out a screenshot of the raw code that amounted to a smoking gun.

In and of itself, this isn't a problem. Mastodon has an extremely lenient open source policy which allows users to modify Mastodon's code for their own purposes—provided that they give credit to Mastodon and make their forked code available for public inspection. Trump didn't do any of this.

Mastodon founder and lead developer Eugen Rochko told Vice that based on the screenshots he's seen floating around social media, Truth Social "absolutely is based on Mastodon"—and its claims to be based on proprietary software when it really isn't would amount to "a license violation." He even discovered another smoking gun—a 404 page using Mastodon's mascot.

Rochko told Talking Points Memo that he is seeking legal counsel on the matter. If he does sue, Trump wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Claiming that his site's code is proprietary despite overwhelming evidence that it isn't? Did he seriously think no one would sniff this out? Suffice to say that if Rochko does take Trump to court, he could really draw blood.

I initially thought that Truth Social would be taken down when its users inevitably threaten violence, leading it to be booted off Apple and Android and effectively rendering it impotent. But it's possible that something as simple as stolen code could potentially add this to the long list of failed Trump ventures. Pass the popcorn.

Saturday, Oct 23, 2021 · 11:21:52 AM PST · Darrell Lucus

MindMatter mentioned in the comments that Trump could face another potential headache. If the SPAC's investors were told the software was proprietary rather than a Mastodon fork, that's securities fraud.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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