Twitter’s intellectual property rights were violated when parts of its source code were leaked online. The leak has added to the challenges the Elon Musk-owned company is already facing. It is now attempting to identify the person who is responsible and any other people who may have downloaded the code.
The social media giant’s source code is the underlying computer code that the platform runs on. It was posted on GitHub, an online collaboration platform for software developers. The move to have the leaked code taken down was made on Friday, when Twitter sent a copyright infringement notice to GitHub. GitHub complied and took down the code that same day. It is unclear how long the leaked code had been available online, but it seemed to have been public for several months.
The company’s executives were only recently made aware of the source code leak. One of their main concerns is that the code contains security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities could enable hackers or other motivated parties to extract user data or bring down the site, as per people briefed on the internal investigation.
For tech companies, such as Twitter, their source code is viewed as a closely held secret. They do not share it for fear that it could give competitors an unfair advantage or reveal security vulnerabilities. Despite this, tech companies have become easy targets for opportunists, hackers, and others. In 2020, a hacking group successfully stole source code from Microsoft and other major companies. In another instance, a star engineer of self-driving cars, Anthony Levandowski, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing code from Google as he prepared to start a new job.
The leak of Twitter’s source code is concerning, according to Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft, a cybersecurity software company. It makes it a little bit easier and speedier to probe for vulnerabilities.
The leak of Twitter’s source code is just one of the many challenges that Elon Musk’s company is currently facing. He has been trying to turn around the social network over the past few months by slashing costs, trying out new features and welcoming back previously banned users. However, outages of the service have increased, while advertisers have been hesitant about running ads on the site.
The turmoil has caused financial damage. On Friday, Musk told employees in an email that Twitter was worth roughly $20 billion, down more than 50 percent from what he paid for it. He said radical changes at the company, including mass layoffs and cost cutting, were necessary to avoid bankruptcy and streamline operations.
Mr. Musk has not responded to a request for comment about Twitter’s leaked code. GitHub declined to comment on the decision to remove the code, but posted Twitter’s takedown request on its website.
This leak comes as Mr. Musk has promised to make some of Twitter’s code public. This month, he said he would make the code that Twitter uses to recommend tweets publicly available by the end of March so that it could be reviewed by anyone and scrutinized for possible flaws. This could help Twitter’s code become more secure, as people identified and reported problems with it.
At the same time, Mr. Musk has been concerned about the possibility of leaks and theft by disgruntled former employees during his mass layoffs. In November, he locked Twitter’s offices and asked employees not to come in while cuts were being made. Over the last few months, Twitter has also prevented engineers from making changes to the site’s code ahead of layoffs for fear that someone would sabotage the platform on the way out the door.
The person who leaked Twitter’s source code appeared to go by the name “FreeSpeechEnthusiast” on GitHub, according to Twitter’s legal filing. The user’s pseudonym appears to be a reference to Mr. Musk, who has referred