The New York Times has reported that parts of Twitter’s source code were recently published online via GitHub but were removed after the social media site submitted a DMCA request. According to the request, which GitHub has made publicly available, the leaked information includes “proprietary source code for Twitter’s platform and internal tools.”
The GitHub profile associated with the DMCA takedown displays a single (non-public) code contribution from early January, the New York Times suggests that the source code may have been available for several months before being taken down. According to the name of the account, “FreeSpeechEnthusiast,” Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter, has previously referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist.”
One of the most guarded trade secrets of a company is often proprietary source code. Making it public exposes the company’s software’s vulnerabilities to potential attackers and gives rivals an advantage by allowing them to access confidential internal processes. Hackers have historically targeted source code, including attacks on Microsoft and CD Projekt Red, the company that created Cyberpunk 2077.
In addition to requesting that GitHub withdraw the code, Twitter filed a court document in California in an effort to identify the offender and learn more about any other GitHub users who may have downloaded the files. According to Bloomberg, the motion urged the court to require GitHub to provide users’ names, residences, contact information, email addresses, social media profiles, and IP addresses.
Inquiries concerning if GitHub will consent to Twitter’s request for identifying information were unanswered by a GitHub spokesman, and an email sent to Twitter’s official press account was answered with an auto-generated poop emoji. Shortly after Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s press office was shut down.
The NYT further reports that Twitter executives believe a worker who existed at the company last year may be responsible for the leak. But since Musk fired thousands of firm employees soon after taking over, that doesn’t help to focus the search. Twitter apparently implemented code freezes ahead of layoffs out of concern that departing workers could try to harm the company on their way out.
The discovery of the source code leak comes only a few days before Twitter is supposed to release “all code used to recommend tweets” on March 31. But if it eventually happens, open-sourcing a recommendation system will probably expose much less of the company’s proprietary code than the recent leak that was released on GitHub.
Since Musk purchased Twitter last year, the social platform has experienced turbulence in various forms. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been working to overhaul the social media network with a strong emphasis on cost-cutting and creating new revenue opportunities like its paid Twitter Blue subscriptions. Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter last year but now claims it is only worth $20 billion. But given the number of outages and interruptions reported in recent months, it appears that the service’s core reliability has worsened as a result.