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08.18.19

GitHub is a Dagger Inside Free/Open Source Software (FOSS); This is Why Microsoft Bought It

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft at 6:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Remember that GitHub is proprietary software, it is centralised, and it gives Microsoft control over its foremost rival, which is a movement rather than a company

Summary: A year later it seems pretty evident that Microsoft doesn’t like FOSS but is merely trying to control it, e.g. by buying millions of FOSS projects/repositories at the platform level (the above is what the Linux Foundation‘s Jim Zemlin said to Microsoft at their event while antitrust regulators were still assessing the proposed takeover)

THE PREVIOUS post ended by saying that we would deal separately with Microsoft’s GitHub and the threat it poses to Software Freedom. This threat is unfortunately growing over time as not enough people shun GitHub. They walk right into the trap.

“In its internal documents Microsoft once explained that it needs to attack Software Freedom while ensuring the attacks don’t look as though they come from Microsoft.”Microsoft is still the biggest foe of Software Freedom, which it combats constantly. No other company stands to benefit from the destruction of Software Freedom as much as Microsoft. The same goes for GNU/Linux. Microsoft hates it and if it could destroy it overnight, it would (it already tried many times and failed every time).

In its internal documents Microsoft once explained that it needs to attack Software Freedom while ensuring the attacks don’t look as though they come from Microsoft. This is what the likes of SCO and Black Duck are for. SCO’s case isn’t 100% over (believe it or not!) and Black Duck is still around and still active under another name because it got bought. It’s being amplified by Microsoft allies, a Microsoft-connected FUD bunch with history and ‘pedigree’. In “The license and security risks of using Node.js,” for instance, Black Duck continues to attack FOSS as usual, amplified by the anti-FOSS site Security Boulevard (propaganda front of an anti-FOSS hack). Days ago it also promoted/copy-pasted Black Duck’s “Review of Apache Struts vulnerabilities yields 24 updated advisories”. Security Boulevard is not a news site (though Google News thinks it is). It’s focused on FOSS…

“…Microsoft continues to attack FOSS. It’s just doing that less directly.”…always negative.

…has never mentioned back doors in proprietary software.

This anti-FOSS site is also constantly advertising WhiteSource (e.g. event placements, with a new example here), the ‘new’ Black Duck. They’re Microsoft partners. They co-author papers with Microsoft and they attack FOSS by proxy for Microsoft. What a truly malicious network of hacks. But the point we wish to make is, Microsoft continues to attack FOSS. It’s just doing that less directly. Security and licensing FUD (especially targeted at copyleft/GPL) is rampant. Now imagine how they can leverage GitHub to further amplify such FUD, as they very publicly do. They barely make that a secret. Their managers speak about that in Twitter. It’s all public. They bash the GPL. Consider who Microsoft put in charge of GitHub; past Techrights articles about him would likely be eye-opening [1, 2, 3, 4].

“It’s secret code and much worse things happen behind the scenes (including NSA surveillance; GitHub is in PRISM now).”Any project which takes Software Freedom seriously needs to avoid/reject GitHub and choose something else because GitHub is proprietary software, antithetical not just to FOSS but also to the decentralised nature of Git. It’s secret code and much worse things happen behind the scenes (including NSA surveillance; GitHub is in PRISM now). Days ago we noticed that a decentralised code/content project, Audius, chose GitHub [1, 2]. That’s like a vegetarian choosing to work for a butcher. We also noticed that the New York Times started pushing Microsoft GitHub (which is a proprietary software trap) under the headline “How to Take Your Open Source Project from Good to Great” (as if Microsoft entrapment in a proprietary software platform makes it “Great”!).

“As before, many so-called ‘studies’ or surveys count nothing but data from Microsoft (GitHub). If you’re not on it, you don’t exist or don’t count.”We’ve been observing a disturbing trend lately. As before, many so-called ‘studies’ or surveys count nothing but data from Microsoft (GitHub). If you’re not on it, you don’t exist or don’t count. This way Microsoft can bias statistics about so-called ‘FOSS’ (only what Microsoft controls). This is not a particularly new issue; GitHub has long attracted projects that don’t care so much about freedom. GitHub is strictly centralised and it is proprietary software. GitHub also helps put one heck of a twist on the term “Open Source” (which increasingly means nothing at all, e.g. outsourcing to a proprietary software platform of Microsoft). 2 days ago we saw evidence that Google still makes this mistake by outsourcing its projects to Microsoft. Is Google out of its mind? GitHub is Google’s rival. It’s controlled by company that still blackmails Android using patent lawsuits. Wrong platform for Google’s code, no? Unless they stop outsourcing code (and control) to Microsoft — a company full of criminals (who admit their crimes but never get arrested) — they will simply make Microsoft stronger. Microsoft grossly misuses its control of the platform, based on imperialism and racism. You just know that something has gone very wrong with FOSS (or rather that Microsoft sabotages it for a price) when “going open source” means outsourcing everything to a proprietary software platform of Microsoft, which censors projects, bans developers etc. based on country of birth/origin.

Belatedly, or perhaps too late, countries realise that GitHub is a danger and a risk factor. Days ago JAXenter wrote:

At the end of July, GitHub enforced access blocks for its software repositories in line with United States trade controls, including U.S. Export Administration Regulations, on sanctioned countries. Instantly this made it difficult for developers based in countries such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria to access private repository services, private organisational accounts or GitHub Marketplace Services. However, this also limited access to public repository services for personal communications only.

It’s important to stress that the individual developers themselves had no say over this decision. GitHub has to follow the rules around selling software to specific countries, yet the software itself is neither sold or bought. For open source projects, copying and distribution are important for building up community and use of the software. Blocking GitHub access – one of the main distribution methods for these software assets – therefore has an impact on the community building activity and makes it more difficult over time.

GitHub has become a central resource for downloading the latest official release code for projects and developers who use these repositories for building their own applications. Suddenly blocking access to GitHub repositories has meant that developers based in those countries were cut off and unable to work with many components, which highlights a key issue for open source software developers: if you don’t want your software to be restricted by international politics you had better choose self-hosted solutions, such as GitLab.

Business Times (Chinese site) explained that this motivated China to bypass GitHub altogether:

China will officially be forming the country’s first-ever open-source software foundation to bolster its open-source software community. The plan was unveiled by Huawei Technologies, which plans to partner with domestic software firms to achieve the ambitious plan. Huawei also revealed that it plans to establish the infrastructure in as early as one or two months.

The plan to establish the country’s first open-source software hub was put into place following the ban imposed by GitHub, the world’s largest host of open-source software, on sanctioned nations by the United States. The US-based company began blocking access to its services in July, starting with the removal of Iranian accounts.

The incident itself has highlighted the increasing dangers of geopolitical interference on the open-source community. China likely felt that it needed to establish its own community as a precaution if the US government does decide to sanction the nation as trade disputes escalate.

The Phnom Penh Post and other Asian sites said this:

The plan for the software foundation came after GitHub, the world’s largest host of source code, last month prevented users in Iran and other nations sanctioned by the US government from accessing portions of its service.

Last but not least, ITWeb wrote the following some days ago:

This follows an acknowledgement from GitHub, the world’s largest open source code host, that it has to prevent users in nations sanctioned by the US government – potentially including China as well as Iran and Crimea – from accessing portions of its service.

[...]

While it is not yet clear whether Huawei or any other Chinese organisation has been impacted by GitHub’s actions, Wang lamented that although it had long been the de facto open source position that open source communities were supposed to be fair and equitable for all, the American position, and GitHub’s compliance with its government’s dictates, meant that open source had become a pawn in the power play between countries.

As we explained some days ago in relation to bogus foundations, it’s not clear whether Huawei is serious about FOSS and BGR published “Huawei’s long-awaited mobile OS elicits mixed reactions in China”. It quotes Torvalds as saying: “Talk is cheap. Show me the code.”

On it goes: “That user’s skepticism about the OS would seem to stem from its viability as a replacement for Android, which continues to be talked up given that the ban remains in place that prevents US companies (like Google) from working with Huawei. Accordingly, Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei sent out an internal memo in recent days spelling out his ambition of building an “iron army” over the next three to five years that can withstand the US ban — the “iron army,” being a generalized reference to a Huawei overhaul that puts more of the company’s fate in its own hands.”

The bottom line is, a lot of what’s being characterised as Open Source is nowadays neither “Open Source” (as per OSD) nor Free software. We’ll deal with that in our next post which is dedicated solely to openwashing.

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