Mastodon's Founder Says Trump's New Social Network Is Just Mastodon

'Truth Social', which will launch officially later in the year, is seemingly using Mastodon's codebase without credit.
October 21, 2021, 2:44pm
Trump and Mastodon
Image: Sean Rayford/Stringer, Mastodon
Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 3
Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

Former President Donald Trump’s new social network ’Truth Social’ is seemingly a thinly disguised fork of popular social network codebase Mastodon.

Users have already found ways to create accounts on the site despite it not officially launching until later this year. With that access, screenshots that various users took show the site is very similar to Mastodon in appearance.

“Based on the screenshots I have seen, it absolutely is based on Mastodon,” Eugen Rochko, founder and lead developer of Mastodon told Motherboard in an email. He pointed to one screenshot of Truth Social’s error message, which is using the default Mastodon elephant mascot.

Advertisement

“Well that looks familiar,” the Mastodon Twitter account tweeted in response to Daily Dot reporter Mikael Thalen posting a screenshot of a Truth Social account he managed to register in Donald Trump’s name. Rochko told Motherboard this Truth Social screenshot “looks exactly like the Mastodon UI with the light theme.”

Another screenshot shows that the HTML for the Truth Social login screen still mentions Mastodon explicitly.

Do you know anything else about Truth Social? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

Mastodon is a piece of open-source software that people can use to create their own social networks. The platform has a timeline style similar to Twitter. Whereas some people have moved to Mastodon for a social network experience away from more established, Big Tech companies, Neo-Nazis and other extremists have also used the platform.

When right-wing platform Gab used Mastodon, Mastodon published a statement saying “Mastodon is completely opposed to Gab’s project and philosophy, which seeks to monetize and platform racist content while hiding behind the banner of free speech. Mastodon remains committed to standing up against hate speech; for example, our new server covenant means we only list servers on joinmastodon.org that are committed to active moderation against racism, sexism and transphobia.” Some developers of Mastodon iOS and Android apps also blocked users from logging into Gab.

Advertisement

On its website, Truth Social says it is “America’s ‘Big Tent’ social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.” The site’s terms of use include a clause that says users can’t “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.”

Its terms also say that “all source code” of Truth Social is proprietary. That might run afoul of Mastodon’s own license.

“The main thing is that Mastodon is free software, released under the AGPLv3 license, so anyone can use it—provided they comply with the license. The main part of the license is making the source code and any modifications to it available to the public,” Rochko told Motherboard. With Truth Social saying that its code is proprietary “that would be a problem, as that would indicate a license violation,” Rochko added.

Trump Media & Technology Group, the company behind Truth Social,  did not respond to a request for comment.

Rochko added “If you want my personal opinion on Trump, I cannot stand the guy.”

Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast CYBER, here. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.