Friend or Foe: Trump and the Free and Open Source Software Community (FOSS)

Is the Free and Open Source Software Community (FOSS) about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in their battle against proprietary systems like Facebook and Twitter?

Trump announces Truth.Social

TRUTH Social is America’s “Big Tent” social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.”

Over 60% of Republicans say they will use Truth Social

Not just Republicans, but 30% of independents say they will use it a lot. Not to be left out, 18% of Democrats say they will use Truth Social as well.

Truth Social is based of a Free and Open Source Software Project

Then the word started to get around that Truth Social is based on a Free and Open Source Software Project call Mastodon. Take a look for yourself, Mastodon looks pretty cool:

Mastodon says it has more than 4.4 million users. By comparison, the Washington Post say Trump was followed by 89 million people on Twitter before being deplatformed.

Opportunity Knocks

Wow, what a great opportunity to bring a lot of end users (89 million Trump Twitter followers alone) into the world of Free and Open Source Software. Many have probably never heard of it and if they have, do not fully understand it.

And the appeal is broad. Joe Biden’s White House set up the “Future of Tech Commission” as an independent and bipartisan working group to develop a tech policy agenda for the nation. That Commission found approx 80% of people are wanting to get Big Tech out of their lives (and presumably would be open to alternatives based on Free and Open Source Software)

And for Mastodon, imagine the opportunity — the opportunity to get the majority of Americans using your software as their social media platform.

Problem in Paradise

But there is a problem in paradise, you see even though it appears that Truth Social is based on the Mastodon project — that was never acknowledged by Truth Social. The Mastodon software is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License which:

“requires the operator of a network server to provide the source code of the modified version running there to the users of that server. Therefore, public use of a modified version, on a publicly accessible server, gives the public access to the source code of the modified version.”

This means, Truth Social should have provided a link to the source code they were using to run Truth Social if, as it appears, it is based on Mastodon — and they didn’t.

So there lies the opportunity and the problem — to get a lot of end users to adopt Free and Open Source Software (Mastodon) for their Social Media platform instead of proprietary systems like Facebook and Twitter — and to get Truth Social to comply with the terms of the software license.

Truth Social must comply with the software license

First let me be crystal clear, I strongly believe that Truth Social must comply with the terms of the software license (both ethically and legally) if it is indeed based on Mastodon.

Rather the purpose of this article is to find a way to maximize the opportunity Truth Social represents to the Free and Open Source Software community.

Did Donald Trump know?

I think the other question that needs to be asked is:

“Did Donald Trump know Truth Social is based on Mastodon — a free and open source software project with a license that requires the source code (even if modified) to be published?”

I suspect not — and I can only imagine the very uncomfortable conversation taking place with the Truth Social development team at the moment.

More good news

But wait, there is more good news. Donald Trump is a man who understands the value of intellectual property (which is what software is) like almost nobody else on planet earth. And once he understands the benefits of the Free and Open Source Software community, the “Counter Puncher in Chief” will likely thrust it into the heart of proprietary systems like Facebook and Twitter in a way nobody else could.

The response so far

Mastodon’s response so far has been to firmly tell Truth Social that they must comply with the terms of the license agreement (good):

“Compliance with our AGPLv3 license is very important to me as that is the sole basis upon which I and other developers are willing to give away years of work for free,” Rochko added.

The AGPL license mandates that software developed for free — like Mastodon — remain publicly available after its been modified. Under the license, TRUTH needs to share any modifications to Mastodon’s code.”

Talking Points Memo

Mastodon would not be able to take the site down in case of a violation, Rochko said, because users can host the software on their own servers. “Such independence is one of the selling points of the platform,” he said, but “it is not an independence from the law, so avenues to take action still exist through legal proceedings.”

Washington Post

and engage in petty politics (bad).

Rochko (founder and lead developer of Mastodon) added “If you want my personal opinion on Trump, I cannot stand the guy.”

Vice Magazine

“As far as personal feelings are concerned, of course we would prefer if people so antithetical to our values did not use and benefit from our labour”

JoinMastodon.org

We want “Team Science” to win

I would encourage all concerned to watch the above clip from Young Sheldon and listen to some great advice from Sheldon’s father, George.

You are all on Team Science (FOSS) right?

People on the same team do not have to get along to work together

Do you want Team Science (FOSS) to win?

Or in the words of Bill Maher

So I say to Mastodon and the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community — stop complaining about the noise. You have got yourself into a good negotiating position with a man who earned 89 million followers on Twitter (more then 20 times the number of people using Mastodon currently). Invite Trump onto Team Science (FOSS) and drive a stake into the heart of proprietary software systems.

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth

Fortune has shone brightly on Mastodon to have Truth Social build upon it. Appreciate the opportunity this presents and make the most of it. Remember there are lots of other open source social media projects Truth Social could have chosen — and switch to if you make life unpalatable for them.

As an example — if they asked me, I would point them to another open source software project called Movim which is Social Media platform based on the widely used XMPP protocol and has some very nice features similar to Telegram channels as well as personal blogs.

Similarly Truth Social move to Free and Open Source Software builds on a huge move by ordinary people sick of being abused by Big Tech to open source alternatives. If you doubt me, check out

which talks about why so many ordinary people are dumping Microsoft Windows and MacOS and moving to Linux. Check out the following Telegram Chat which has about 4,000 people helping each other make the move to Linux

Or the following article about people selling their iPhones back to Apple and switching to De-Googled phones where they can maintain their privacy and freedom from censorship

Conclusion

In conclusion, I say — Team Science (FOSS) for the win.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

Writer and family members do not hold any financial interest in the businesses manufacturing, developing, and/or selling any of the products or services mentioned in this article. Nor are we compensated in any way e.g. commission or affiliate program if you decide to purchase these products or services.

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