Parts of Twitter’s source code, the computer code that runs the platform, had been leaked on the online software developer collaboration platform GitHub. It’s unclear how long the code was up, but The New York Times said it appeared to have been publicly available for at least several months. GitHub complied Friday with a request from Twitter to take the code down.
Musk appeared unbothered on Twitter as the leaked code debacle went down, alternating between sharing pseudo-intellectual musings and weird memes, and begging people to sign up for Twitter Blue, the platform’s paid subscription plan. But internally, he admitted there are serious issues. In an email sent to Twitter employees on Friday, Musk said the company is now worth $20 billion, less than half of what he paid for it in October.
Companies guard their source code jealously to prevent potential hackers or competitors from getting insight into how a platform operates. According to the Times, Twitter has begun investigating who might have leaked the code and suspect it was someone who left the company last year, citing two people familiar with the probe.
Even though the code has been removed from GitHub, it isn’t really gone. Remember when your parents told you that what you put on the internet stays there forever? Well, “once this is leaked, it cannot be put back in the bottle entirely,” cybersecurity researcher and consultant Lukasz Olejnik told The Washington Post, pointing out it’s impossible to know how many people accessed the code before it was taken down.
“Whether an exploitable vulnerability can be spotted and utilized is difficult to gauge immediately.”
The code was shared by a user named FreeSpeechEnthusiast, who joined GitHub on January 3. That same day, FreeSpeechEnthusiast made their only contribution to the platform (presumably Twitter’s code). Their username is an obvious and excellent troll of Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist”—which apparently means letting Nazis and the Taliban run rampant on Twitter.
Ironically, Musk had announced plans earlier this month to make parts of Twitter’s code public. The goal was to essentially make it open for peer review, so people could check for and report flaws. Clearly, FreeSpeechEnthusiast beat him to the punch.
Since taking the reins, Musk has embarked on a ruthless cost-cutting mission, firing almost 75 percent of Twitter’s staff, auctioning off everything in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and just not paying rent. But with advertisers leaving the platform in droves due to his lax content moderation policies, it’s clearly not enough.