After crowdfunding millions of dollars, social media platform Gab abandoned its own code and switched to the freely available Mastodon software in early 2019 as a way of circumventing Google’s and Apple’s ban on their own app from their app stores, since offering Mastodon’s client-side API would allow any existing Mastodon app to be used to access Gab. We have never had any sympathy for their thinly (if at all) veiled white supremacist platform so that was not a welcome move on our part, however the license that we publish our software under (AGPLv3) allows anyone to use it as they see fit as long as they keep the same license and make their modifications public.
While we gave up the ability to choose who can and cannot use our software by publishing our source code using this Free Software license, we can still choose who we as a project associate with. We are opposed to Gab’s philosophy, which uses the pretense of free speech absolutism as an excuse to platform racist and otherwise dehumanizing content.
Mastodon has been originally developed by a person of Jewish heritage and first-generation immigrant background and Mastodon’s userbase includes many people from marginalized communities. Mastodon’s decentralized approach that allows communities to self-govern according to their needs has enabled those marginalized communities to create safe spaces for themselves where previously they were reliant on big companies like Twitter to stand up for them, which these companies have often failed to do. While the Mastodon software is free for everyone to use and modify, our world view could not be further from Gab’s.
As a truly decentralized network, each Mastodon server operator has to make the call on their own. Many have already opted to block communication from Gab’s servers. On our side, we have blocked them from the Mastodon server that we operate, mastodon.social. We have also recently introduced a more strict policy for which Mastodon servers we promote through our official website joinmastodon.org, listing only such servers that commit to standing up against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
Last updated: Oct 28, 2021
- On Mar 1, 2021, following a breach that likely resulted from Gab’s own modifications to the code and a failure to merge important security fixes from the upstream Mastodon code base, Gab changed the way it published its source code.
- First, the public source code repository was taken offline, replacing the code with a message stating that the source code would be provided upon request by e-mail only. Whether this was compliant with the AGPLv3 license was quickly put into question.
- At least as soon as the following day, a password-protected archive of the source code was uploaded to the repository, with the password provided in a separate README file.
- However, despite changes evidently being made to Gab’s interface and functionality in the following months, that password-protected archive was not updated once in the following 7 months, prompting us to investigate a case of AGPLv3 violation.
- On Oct 21, 2021, our legal team sent a Cease & Desist letter to Gab’s legal team, informing them that Gab is in breach of the AGPLv3 license. In response to the letter, the same day the password-protected archive of Gab’s source code was updated.