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Twitter reports source code leak, seeks identity of those responsible

Twitter said some of its source code, the fundamental computer code governing its operations, has been leaked, possibly compounding technical and security challenges the company has faced after several rounds of deep job cuts.

An anonymous individual or group of individuals, known by the alias "FreeSpeechEnthusiast," posted "various excerpts" of Twitter's source code to GitHub, a software development platform owned by Microsoft, according to a legal filing by Twitter on Sunday. Twitter alleges the leak infringes on its copyrights, it said in the filing.

Twitter asked GitHub to take down the post on Friday, the filing shows. Github swiftly responded to the social network's request, removing the code from its platform that same day, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, which GitHub made public.

Twitter also requested that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California order GitHub to provide information on the individuals who uploaded the code, as well as those who downloaded it, the filing shows. 

The social media network is seeking names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media profile data and IP addresses associated with the user account "FreeSpeechEnthusiast." The name is an apparent reference to Twitter CEO, Elon Musk, a billionaire who has described himself as a free speech absolutist.

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It is difficult to know if the leak poses an immediate risk for Twitter users, said Lukasz OIejnik, an independent cybersecurity researcher and consultant, but he did say the breach underscores internal turbulence at the company.

"While this is the internal source code, including internal tools, the biggest immediate risk seems to be reputational," Olejnik said. "It highlights the broader problem of Big Tech, which is insider risk," and could undermine trust between Twitter's employees or internal teams, he said.

Rising Concerns 

The leak creates another challenge for Musk, who bought Twitter in October for $44 billion and took the company private. Twitter has since been engulfed in chaos, with massive layoffs and an exodus of advertisers fearful of how looser rules on the platform regarding potentially inflammatory posts could negatively impact their brand image.

Musk has reportedly expressed concerns over the possibility of insider leaks at Twitter amid its corporate turmoil. In December, Musk sent a memo to Twitter employees threatening to sue workers who leak information about the company's internal operations to the press, Platformer reported

Since Musk acquired Twitter, roughly three-quarters of the company's 7,500 employees have either been laid off or resigned, The New York Times reported

Striving for transparency

Musk had promised earlier this month that Twitter would open source all the code used to recommend tweets on March 31, saying that people "will discover many silly things, but we'll patch issues as soon as they're found!" He added that being transparent about Twitter's code will be "incredibly embarrassing at first" but will result in "rapid improvement in recommendation quality."

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is probing Musk's mass layoffs at Twitter and trying to obtain his internal communications as part of ongoing oversight into the social media company's privacy and cybersecurity practices, according to documents described in a congressional report.

The Associated Press contributed reporting. 

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