Game developer Jason Rohrer’s had a rude awakening on GitHub recently when a report filed against his code hosted on the service resulted in his repositories being removed.
The content in question is what Rohrer refers to as his life’s work – more than five years worth of code of his “One Hour One Life” massively multiplayer online game.
And the removal came without any notification from GitHub or any discernible review process – instead, it was based on a whim of what the developer described on Twitter as a spiteful user.
If you're thinking about using @github for your life's work, FYI, they may remove it without any warning or notice, based on some user "report" made out of spite. That happened today for the 5+ years of One Hour One Life work that I'm hosting there. They didn't even email me.
— Jason Rohrer (@jasonrohrer) June 5, 2019
Even tough GitHub CEO Nat Friedman quickly chimed in on the controversy in the comments to Rohrer’s tweet – to apologize, and announce that the code had been restored – this looks extremely unprofessional coming from a service that currently boasts more than 37 million users and hosts their 57 million repositories.
Friedman also added that the incident would be “investigated and learned from.”
However, the hugely popular US hosting service for Git, a leading version control software, is no longer a fledgling startup that has not gotten all the elements of its business and customer support just right yet.
Last year, GitHub was acquired by tech behemoth Microsoft for $7.5 billion – so one would think the system to report abuse of any kind would have appropriate mechanisms in place to protect those accused, too.
GitHub has a system to combat harassment and violations of the company’s Terms of Service, including abuse, DMCA claims, and privacy concerns.
“Let us know the name of the user you’re concerned with. Rest assured, we’ll keep your identifying information private,” a notice on GitHub’s report page says.
And while the form also asks for as many details about the alleged violation, the system obviously doesn’t work as it should.
Rohrer was able to leverage his high profile in the community to let his problem be known, and then quickly fixed, but concerns remain about how less influential developers among those 37 million might fare when faced with a similar shocking discovery of GitHub just “disappearing” their code on some bogus claim.
One of the commenters to Rohrer’s original tweet suggested a fix that’s been doing the round in the community ever since the Microsoft acquisition: just move your code elsewhere, or host it yourself.