07.10.14

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The Effect of Corporate Media Bias: FOSS Demonisation and Microsoft Openwashing

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 4:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A set of very recent examples where the corporate press produces FOSS-hostile articles (or pro-Microsoft articles) by citing biased sources of convenience

Nowadays, and especially in the past few months, those of us who exhaustively scan news feeds (as Techrights has done for nearly a decade) would be seeing a relatively new angle for attacking FOSS. After Microsoft had tried using copyrights with SCO as well as patents through all sorts of proxies (and directly) Microsoft-linked groups, including Black Duck, generated more licensing FUD while monetising it (two birds, one stone). Here is the latest example from the news. It is a classic ‘script’ and it is hosted by IDG, which also offered some Black Duck staff (the one cited here) permanent blog space (a very FOSS-hostile blog). The angle, in short, is inherently anti-GPL, claiming that enterprises are afraid of it. Another Microsoft-linked firm, OpenLogic, used and disseminated the same talking point. These are FUD agencies and this is their purpose — to help marginalise FOSS and produce FUD, creating a warped debate in all kinds of events, surveys etc. that they organise. Very nasty. They actually make money from this.

“These are FUD agencies and this is their purpose — to help marginalise FOSS and produce FUD…”Here is another new example. Acting as if one bug in the code of OpenSSL is somehow so Earth-changing for FOSS as a whole, the corporate press is trying to keep the word “Heartbleed” in the headlines [1, 2]. We wrote about this some days ago and highlighted the insidious connection to Microsoft. This is just another angle of FUD: the security angle. Now that Windows XP is not supported (or not being patched) Microsoft needs to create the illusion that FOSS is “equally insecure”, or something along those lines. And this FUD works. We have seen the effect. I see the effect all the time.

Now, watch another such piece of news-flavoured FUD. Python is now the most popular introductory teaching language at top U.S. universities, according to ACM, but the Microsoft-friendly media emits licensing FUD from a familiar source of FOSS FUD, WhiteSource. Adrian Bridgwater, with his mixed history on FOSS (often FOSS-hostile), wrote in Microsoft-friendly media the headline “43% Python Open Source Libraries ‘Potentially Risky’”. This sounds like security FUD, but it’s actually licensing FUD. To quote:

The study suggested that a large percentage of the libraries are under restrictive licenses. The repercussion here may be that while many Python programmers report substantial productivity gains, the use of open source Python components introduces new challenges.

The so-called ‘study’ comes from WhiteSource, which has a consistent track record of attacking FOSS.

This is the type of trash that dominates the press these days. Who is funding those ‘studies’ and why is it so fashionable to attack FOSS using made up (or merely perceived) risks? These questions are largely rhetorical.

Condé Nasty’s Wired has meanwhile produced yet another openwashing Microsoft piece, nicely disguised with a teasing headline (“Watch Steve Ballmer Mock Linux While Dressed as The Matrix’s Neo”). It would have readers believe that Microsoft is now a friend of FOSS. This site has been doing this for a number of years now, as we repeatedly pointed out before. The new owner seems to have an agenda very different from the original owners’. Wired turned into something suspiciously weird under Condé Nasty’s management.

Wired turned into something suspiciously weird under Condé Nasty’s management.”As we showed before, there are gullible CIOs like Jos Creese who seem like the target audience for this. IDG even has a site called CIO. Facebook too has an openwashing campaign going on (we recently showed more examples of that) and openwashing has been effective at stopping government migrations to FOSS. The British press offers some responses to this trend, include this new article which says:

And Creese isn’t alone in his attachment to Microsoft. Alan Shields, architect team manager at Cambridgeshire County Council, says: “It is incredibly difficult to get away from the stranglehold of Microsoft products, and we are planning to reinforce this by entering into an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft later this year.”

Other British press goes further with another FOSS-hostile piece from Adrian Bridgwater. To quote parts of it:

Mike James on i-programmer isn’t happy either.

James bemoans the reticence, caginess and ok then downright old stubbornness Microsoft has exhibited over its refusal to open source VB6.

VB6 (or Visual Basic 7) is programming language and IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that dates back to the heady CD-ROM centric days of 1991.

Today the Visual Basic 6.0 Resource Center is mainly focused on selling your migration and “upgrades from” than championing that which was once much loved.

James bemoans the fact that Microsoft “killed” VB6 but now refuses to open source the language despite the firm’s “warmth” for open source.

What warmth?

This rather bizarre piece from Adrian Bridgwater, who has a history of being soft on Microsoft, does not quote any Microsoft critics but only Microsoft boosters who want a little bit more from Microsoft. It is overall a very one-sided article, where the opposition (‘balance’) is basically also in favour of Microsoft (both the pros and cons are Microsoft-friendly). It is a Fox ‘news’-style debate, biasing the hypothesis and pushing for a particular, preconceived outcome, openwashing Microsoft with a list of talking points and then citing a Microsoft booster, Dr. Dobbs’ Andrew Binstock (i-programmer is also pro-Microsoft and .NET/Mono, as we last noted very recently). Binstock is the Microsoft-boosting editor of Dr. Dobbs (with history of whitewashing Microsoft crimes), who is now ‘pulling a Scroogle’ as well. It is essential to remember that Dr. Dobbs too changed management not too long ago. It’s not at all what it used to be.

The final message we wish to get across is that the media is full of FUD and filled with FOSS-hostile articles. Many of them are easy to explain when knowing the background of the authors, the firms that they cite (often Microsoft-linked), and the agenda of the publisher, which is often designed to favour proprietary software (the advertisers). If these pieces of FUD are not being highlighted and challenged, then there’s risk that there will be perception of no opposition to them, hence they must be “true”.

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