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Mastodon’s Truth Social Violated ToS; Trump’s entire platform could now be DOA


Donald Trump’s latest business venture, Truth Social, is a brand new social media platform that will be a publicly traded company through a reverse merger with a SPAC. Therefore, it sits at the intersection of finance, law and technology. When you combine Trump’s legendary financial acumen – he has only six bankruptcies under his belt – with his odd eye for legal talents like Rudy Giuliani and tech wizards like Brad Parscale, what could go wrong? to turn?

You would be surprised. After all, this is Trump’s second bite of an apple. His first “social media” business debuted last June and was essentially a blog. It lasted 29 days in total. In a fit of acute embarrassment, Trump ultimately demanded that he be turned off because he was receiving fewer hits than Petfinder.

But Truth Social is supposed to be the real deal. Intended to compete not only with Facebook and Twitter, but ultimately with Amazon and even Stripe. Seriously. Here is a slide from Trump’s pitch deck:

When Trump announced that the company behind Truth Social, Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTS) would merge with Digital World Acquisition Corp, DWAC went from $ 10 to $ 175 in two days.

There is a lot that needs to be done to make Truth Social a viable product and not vaporware. So how do you build a social network? This is a difficult work!

Trump had several choices. TMTS could have bought an existing social media company and renamed it. (Anyone for TrumpSpace?) Or TMTS could have tried to develop a platform from scratch. But both would have cost money. Trump therefore opted for a cheaper solution.

Free software is one of the big surprises of the Internet age. These programs and platforms are developed and maintained by dedicated volunteers and some of them are good enough to compete with products created by companies such as Microsoft or Google. In fact, much of the Internet runs on open source software. There is a huge range of software available, from desktop software to web servers. Even large companies often rely on open source.

And to underline the biggest selling point of open source: it’s free. So it’s no surprise that Trump’s new venture decided to build Truth Social on an open source social media platform called Mastodon.

OPen Source software is designed to be easy to use. You can install and use it right out of the box if you want, which most people do. You can also, however, start with the base version of the software and recode parts of it to add your own bells and whistles, creating a new version. This new version is called a “fork”. This is, it seems, what Trump did with Mastodon to create Truth Social.

So far, so good. Except now the story of Truth Social is getting slightly complicated – too complicated, apparently, for the folks at TMTS. Open source software is free to use, but that doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain. It is always subject to a software license and the user must agree to the terms of this license before it can be deployed.

A lot of open source software is available under what is called a “copyleft” license. The terms are simple: you are free to use the software for any purpose. However, you cannot claim ownership of the software. And if you fork it, you need to put the new version of the software, including the parts you developed, into the public domain and make the source code available for free. Mastodon, the software Trump uses to create Truth Social, uses just such a license.

Thus, TMTS cannot claim any ownership rights in Truth Social. And yet, that is exactly what Truth Social does in its terms and conditions. To make matters worse, Truth Social—despite several requests– refuses to publish its source code.

Both of these actions are direct violations of the Mastodon license. And the license terms state that if TMTS fails to correct these issues within 30 days, it will automatically and permanently lose all rights to use the software.

This means that Truth Social would have no network, no codebase, no product, nothing but a brand name, in fact.

Again: who would have guessed?

Tits backstory was revealed when Trump briefly launched a test site for Truth Social. Since the site was up and running and accessible to the public, this triggered the terms of the license. The Software Freedom Conservancy, the organization that develops and maintains Mastodon, has already sent TMTS a letter asking it to release the source code for its fork and make it public. If TMTS refuses, they’ll go to court and ex-president or not, if it’s really based on Mastodon, then Truth Social will go back to the drawing board and have to start over. This may very well involve having to find another merger partner.

It is quite likely that Trump and his entourage have already made money from this deal. Anyone who bought DWAC right after the merger was announced could easily have achieved an 800% ROI almost overnight. It is also unclear who currently owns the majority of DWAC, as around 750 million shares have changed hands in the past week, most on multiple occasions.

But it’s a stupid change. The deal between TMTS and DWAC values ​​TMTS at $ 875 million, which means that after the merger Trump will own many shares of the new publicly traded company. If things go well, Trump could earn an additional $ 825 million in shares for a total payout of $ 1.7 billion. Not to mention that TMTS will get its hands on PSPC’s assets – $ 293 million in cash – once this proposed merger gets regulatory and shareholder approval.

The same people who brought you Trump University and managed to mistake a landscaping company for a luxury hotel have now put it all at risk because they couldn’t bother to do the due diligence. the most basic. Building a commercial open source software platform without worrying about checking license terms is sort of the equivalent of starting an airline, renting a bunch of planes, and then being shocked to find out what you need. of pilots approved to fly them.

Of course, TMTS can still save this mess somehow. And we don’t know what discussions Trump had with DWAC. Maybe Trump and DWAC will agree that Truth Social is public domain software. Perhaps DWAC shareholders think Trump’s popularity with the Republican base will be enough to take the project to the GameStop and earn them a profit even without real product.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. Sooner or later everything Trump touches dies. And Truth Social is clearly no exception.

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