On February 21, 2023, Twitter chief Elon Musk published a tweet suggesting that Twitter’s algorithm would be “made open source” before the end of that month.
Before he took ownership of Twitter, Musk said that having the code out in the open would be a smart move, but the end of February came and went, without any code appearing in public.
On March 17, Musk raised the topic once again. “Twitter will open source all code used to recommend tweets on March 31st,” he tweeted. With the clock ticking on that event, someone with apparently similar plans but a more urgent publishing schedule, has taken Twitter by surprise.
FreeSpeechEnthusiast Presents: PublicSpace
On March 24, Twitter sent a DMCA takedown notice to GitHub targeting a repo named ‘PublicSpace’. The repo was created by a GitHub user called FreeSpeechEnthusiast, but with no description, nothing stood out as particularly interesting or out of the ordinary.
Logs obtained by TorrentFreak suggest that the allegedly infringing content appeared on the PublicSpace repo early Friday morning, around 02:25. When GitHub received the initial DMCA notice isn’t clear, but some interaction between Twitter and GitHub appears to have taken place before 10:15.
At 17:12 Friday afternoon, GitHub removed the repo and the code. Just one minute later, GitHub advised Twitter that the content was gone. That was a pretty swift removal but it appears Twitter was in a real hurry.
“Proprietary Source Code For Twitter’s Platform”
While the repo itself appeared without fanfare, Twitter’s DMCA notice is clear on why it should be taken down.
In response to GitHub’s request to identify the infringed content, Twitter revealed that it was “Proprietary source code for Twitter’s platform and internal tools.”
Knowing exactly what was made available isn’t straightforward without a live repo, but whatever the contents were, Twitter seems to be taking things very seriously.
Twitter Files DMCA Subpoena Application
On the same day the content was uploaded and then removed from GitHub, Julian Moore, Twitter Director and Associate General Counsel, filed an application for a DMCA subpoena at a federal court in California.
“On March 24, 2023, I submitted on behalf of Twitter a DMCA notification, via GitHub’s online DMCA notification form…identifying the Infringing Content on GitHub’s systems and providing the information required by 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A),” Moore’s declaration reads.
“The purpose of Twitter’s DMCA Subpoena is to identify the alleged infringer or infringers who posted Twitter’s source code on systems operated by GitHub without Twitter’s authorization, which postings infringe copyrights held by Twitter.”
Identifying the Infringer
Not satisfied with simply taking the repo and content down, Twitter is now trying to identify the person behind the username FreeSpeechEnthusiast on GitHub. As the image below shows, Twitter believes GitHub may have a lot to offer.
There’s no doubt that GitHub will have all of this information to hand, but whether it will be of use to Twitter remains to be seen.
Some basic information is easy to determine without any special help from GitHub, including the date when the account was created – January 3, 2023 – and when there was activity on the repo.
The note from Twitter claims they have no contact information for FreeSpeechEnthusiast but TorrentFreak was able to identify an email address linked to a specialist encrypted provider. Unsurprisingly, FreeSpeechEnthusiast did not respond to our request for comment.
Twitter’s DMCA subpoena application can be found here (1,2, pdf)
Image credit: geralt/pixabay