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06.22.20

The Implications of an Increasingly Corporate FSF

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:45 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

The corporate wear

Summary: “Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations?”

The Cumberland Science Museum once held a simple exhibit in optics that you can recreate at home: a pane of glass with lights on either side, that allowed those seated to dim or brighten the lights on their side. You can achieve this at home after dark, if you have switches for lights outdoors as well as indoors.

“…Mozilla (who is upstream from GNU IceCat) is hiring people from Microsoft and getting Microsoft cozier with Rust — a language that is not only based on Microsoft GitHub, but one you need in order to compile IceCat.”If the lights are brighter on your side than the opposite, your side will act as a mirror and show your reflection; people on the opposite side will see you. If the lights on your side are dimmer than the opposite side, people on that side will see their reflection (the glass is opaque) and the glass will appear transparent from your perspective.

This is not unlike what’s going on right now at the FSF, where things are increasingly transparent for corporations, but for the rest of us they are increasingly opaque. And while that may be a fun opening for an article, the implications of this aren’t very fun at all.

While GNU Radio, GNU Bison and GNUstep (along with several GNU maintainers from Red Hat — a company now owned by the FSF’s largest corporate sponsor) drag the GNU project further into Microsoft’s clutches, Mozilla (who is upstream from GNU IceCat) is hiring people from Microsoft and getting Microsoft cozier with Rust — a language that is not only based on Microsoft GitHub, but one you need in order to compile IceCat.

“Yes, they like to pretend that Source = Transparency, but tell that to the spooks who approached Torvalds because they wanted a backdoor.”The FSF claims to be against imposing DRM on the user — from this standpoint it is not only understandable, but welcome, that IceCat ships with EME (the now standard DRM for the web) disabled from about:config. From a freedom-respecting standpoint, this is the least they can do.

You have to wonder if we will be so lucky when DRM ships with the Linux kernel itself. Of course I’m not referring to Direct Rendering, but Digital Restrictions Management. As that sort of ugliness creeps into the kernel, one hopes this too will be shipped with it turned off (or removed if necessary).

The nice thing about free software is that it comes with the source and a free license. This means that if everything else breaks down, you can still pore over the code and mirror it — whatever that may cost — these days it seems a lot of projects cant find it in their budgets to host their own code, let alone mirror it; as they keep moving to GitHub because it’s “free”. But we are also free (as in permitted) to host the code they couldn’t justify the costs of hosting themselves.

“Tell that to the Microsoft engineers who design everything around the fact that they control updates more than you do. These are the same people gaining control of Mozilla, Python, the Linux kernel, and (very gradually) the GNU project.”I have personally (often with tools informed of what I was looking for) sifted through gigabytes of source because its less bother than navigating the labyrinthine channels of doubletalk and broken promises that pass for news, forums and mailing lists these days. Yes, they like to pretend that Source = Transparency, but tell that to the spooks who approached Torvalds because they wanted a backdoor.

Tell that to the Microsoft engineers who design everything around the fact that they control updates more than you do. These are the same people gaining control of Mozilla, Python, the Linux kernel, and (very gradually) the GNU project.

The problem with the Source = Transparency equation, is that we didn’t just have the source. It’s a very nice thing to fall back on, as a last resort. But the fact is that what we called “transparency” in the days when these things were built, went a lot farther.

“We had a Mozilla that would still have said “NO” to DRM — we had a kernel that wasn’t controlled by several people from Microsoft.”It was source, plus a tech press that wasn’t entirely in these corporate pockets, plus mailing lists that weren’t being stress-tested to see how many lies they can hold without buckling. And you had watchdog organisations (including Mozilla, though more importantly the FSF and debatably, OSI) that were far less compromised.

As the FSF is being hollowed out, as if by termites, Big Blue (along with Big Red) is propping up the structure so it doesn’t collapse — at least not on them. But who brought the termites, and who fired the exterminators? We didn’t just have the source, we had the source and a functioning Free Software Foundation.

We had the source and a functioning FSF, and a non-ousted leader. We had a less-bribed tech press, who were owned by a larger number of corporations (then at least 6; now 5). We had a Mozilla that would still have said “NO” to DRM — we had a kernel that wasn’t controlled by several people from Microsoft.

“If we turn around, what do we find? Do we find that GNOME has SETTLED with patent blackmailers?”You can’t even count the number of side-channel attacks, (we didn’t mention the lobbying against copyleft, by SPONSORS of CopyleftConf!) but people keep on with the mantra of Source = Transparency. And with the sliders out of our hands, all the side-channel processes that used to throw their weight behind the source when it came to transparency, become more opaque for us and more transparent for the likes of Microsoft and IBM.

What’s truly hilarious about IBM and Microsoft controlling free software more and more all the time, is that — not only are they still suing us for control of the software we wrote to be free — they’re the same companies (or they controlled, leveraged or bought the same companies) who controlled our computing before we declared freedom! So one day we were fighting against them, and the next day, when we were supposedly winning, we said “Hey, you know what? Why don’t we go over to your side?”

“Do we find that while these people talk about “transparency” it’s been 3/4 of a year since the founder was ousted on predominantly bogus terms, and the FSF still has two presidents, neither of whom can possibly tell us when things will be back to “normal”?”I mean if you can beat them, why not join them — as they fight against us? It only makes sense, right? We just won’t call it fighting, we’ll give it some other name and everything’s cool now.

But we actually lost the fight against DRM becoming a web standard, I guess that’s okay as long as we have the source to IceCat, and we lost most of the people who would keep watch and tell us if something rotten happened, but that’s okay as long as we have the source, I guess — and we lost the founder of the organisation that fought the most for our freedom, but that’s okay, because he still controls the GNU Project.

And of course, he asks people not to move parts of GNU Project to GitHub and they do it anyway, but that’s okay, because we still have the source code, amiright?

“GNU leadership petition (about 1/3 of which was people from Red Hat, the biggest FSF sponsor)”It’s like we are staring at the front door, while people come through the back or the side and take everything in the house, but that’s alright — the door is still right there! If anybody messes with the door, we will be sure to find it right there in the source code!

If we turn around, what do we find? Do we find that GNOME has SETTLED with patent blackmailers? That rms actually runs the GNU Project about as much as the Queen actually runs England? Do we find that while these people talk about “transparency” it’s been 3/4 of a year since the founder was ousted on predominantly bogus terms, and the FSF still has two presidents, neither of whom can possibly tell us when things will be back to “normal”?

Nor can they tell us what happened to the founder’s personal website.

“None of what’s going on is legitimate, the FSF is simply rotting from the inside and getting propped up by the biggest sponsors.”So you had a coup over LibrePlanet, then we predicted a coup at the FSF which now has happened — a coup to oust the president, then someone tampered with his website to make it look like he didn’t control the GNU Project anymore. In the context of all else, too little was made of that event, because it was clearly part of a coup that remains ongoing.

Let’s count the stages of the coup here:

1. LibrePlanet petition
2. FSF presidency
3. GNU leadership petition (about 1/3 of which was people from Red Hat, the biggest FSF sponsor)
4. GNU leader’s personal website tampered with
5. Ongoing (separate) GNU petition (months later, as recently as April of this year?)

We already mentioned the 5th stage, that one keeps going even now.

None of what’s going on is legitimate, the FSF is simply rotting from the inside and getting propped up by the biggest sponsors. Even if that didn’t match a lot of well-known corporate takeover strategies, it still obviously is one.

“Every aspect of everything to do with free software is now compromised, until we get the source code as our “receipt” of getting screwed over.”But gee, gosh, which corporations are trying to take over?

Those two? Really? Again? I guess antitrust law really is dead. You can buy all the non-profit orgs you want to, these days.

So back to being a poor user here — who are you supposed to get real answers from, since you have transparency? Because while it’s nice that we have the source, every process that has anything to do with:

1. Development
2. Distribution
3. Watchdogging
4. Organisational structure
5. Communication

Every aspect of everything to do with free software is now compromised, until we get the source code as our “receipt” of getting screwed over. You can email rms right now — you can poke at him for months, it won’t get you any closer to the answers you want or need as a concerned user or free software supporter. You can talk to all THREE presidents — the former, the figurehead, and the corporate puppet — but you won’t get useful answers. Who has them?

“Everything on GitHub is already run by Microsoft — including GNU Bison and Perl, which are used to build everything that uses GNU automake.”This is the FSF In Absentia, and OSI is already run by Microsoft. Red Hat is already run by IBM. (But they say it isn’t, so that’s cool). Everything on GitHub is already run by Microsoft — including GNU Bison and Perl, which are used to build everything that uses GNU automake.

Are we still pretending that this is going to turn around? Because when you do turn around, there’s nothing there.

It’s just a reflection, the ghost of free software.

It’s just a corporation now — and if anybody still cared about the reality that allowed the free software movement to be built, they would be just as worried about the fact that all those elements are in fact now missing, and missing at roughly the same time.

“Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations?”But hey, we still have the source code, Tra La La La La… but who is going to fight for our right to host it? (And to Use it, and Study it, and Change and Share it?) We have the source code and a license, so we don’t need a working, transparent FSF? (“Oh you can see our financial…”) YEAH, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT WE ASKED YOU GUYS, IS IT?

No real answers = No real organisation. Because puppets can’t really talk!

Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations? The people who can’t, won’t answer your questions, but who will just deflect them? The GNU maintainers who are more loyal to Microsoft GitHub than rms, who make fun of users’ concerns in the mailing lists?

“The GNU maintainers who are more loyal to Microsoft GitHub than rms, who make fun of users’ concerns in the mailing lists?”There’s nothing left of it but smoke and mirrors, and (when the lights come back) the big monopolies we spent more than 30 years gaining independence from. Remember that? More than 30 YEARS!

We sure showed those guys!

Long live rms, and — Whatever, I guess!

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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2 Comments

  1. ronald.trip said,

    June 24, 2020 at 2:56 am

    Gravatar

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I have to confess that I, as a user, have not kept vigilant. Have not made the case for Libre Software after a while. I did see several machinations over the course of two decades and I imagined proprietary interests would try to control Libre Software by injecting dependencies so they could erect toll booths. Never did I imagine a future where these interests would just take over the whole kit and caboodle without a fight and people defending them for doing it. When corporate shenanigans propped up, I just retreated to more community oriented pastures. It seems like the proprietary establishment did an end run around us all and corralled us in by paying for the “deed” to our free zones.

    Now that our “platform is burning”, what are the things we should do? Is it still possible to put out the fires? How do we discern friend from foe? As far as I’m concerned, the pragmatic user who doesn’t care about the Libre process is just a tourist and shouldn’t be counted among our numbers. Do we still have sufficient numbers to turn the tide?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    You’ve received a reply in article form.

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