02.28.20

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Inside the Free Software Foundation (FSF) – Part II: The Majority of the Board Supports Richard Stallman

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 5:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Free Speech and Free software

Summary: It seems to have become somewhat fashionable separating high-profile projects and institutions from their founders; at the FSF, thankfully (at least for now), the founder still has a foothold

IN PART ONE and the introduction we highlighted a number of things we had heard from numerous sources and had experienced ourselves even before Alex started writing about it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

Alex is not associated with Techrights, but some of the things he wrote over the past week resemble stories we occasionally hear. Last year we wrote a number of stories about censorship at LibrePlanet. Even back then Stallman was being silenced or threatened somewhat (even months before what some in the Free software community call “Free software 9/11″). Rejecting one’s founder? The OSI has just done that too. As for the Linux Foundation, we’re being told that Torvalds (Linux founder) is “sexist” or “rude” and therefore he should have no control over his own project (let Microsoft, Oracle and others control it through their foundation).

“People who oppose corporate takeovers are being spun as racist, sexist and so on.”LibrePlanet was a sign of things to come. This year the conference offers corporate sponsors “thank yous” (it's in the brochure) and there’s understandably some anger. There’s a perception that control is being passed (of the FSF and by extension GNU) from the founder to corporations which exploit the work. It’s being "sold" to the public as a matter of "ethics" as if there’s something inherently moral about for-profit corporations. Even those that predominantly profit from non-free software…

People who oppose corporate takeovers are being spun as racist, sexist and so on. This strategy isn’t novel or unprecedented. If they happen to be right wing-leaning, then tough luck — in all likelihood they also fit such labeling and get banned without appeal rights. No need to even take anything out of context, only to go further and further back in time (ask Mr. Eich why he’s no longer Mozilla’s CEO).

Months ago J. Gay from “Defective By Design” (DBD) fame, among other FSF campaigns, routinely came to our IRC channels, which are publicly logged (no secrets necessary there). Seeing his stance on Stallman and a variety of other topics, I began to get a clearer picture and a better understanding of what had been happening and who was pushing for what outcome (and why). This series is based on a large number of discussions and conversations. It will be based only on facts, not hearsay.

“Based on our understanding — and again without mentioning any names — the Board of the FSF is still mostly trustworthy. Mostly.”It does not seem like anyone at the higher ranks of the FSF genuinely hates Stallman, although that much can be said about former people and ‘lower-level’ people. We’ll try to name nobody. It would be counter-productive to make it seem personal.

Based on our understanding — and again without mentioning any names — the Board of the FSF is still mostly trustworthy. Mostly.

“It’s not that the board is compromised,” one person noted. There’s only one or at most two people there who strive to have an FSF without Stallman (without even his mentioning), wrongly believing that he is more of a liability than an asset.

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