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The FSFE’s Behaviour Standards

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 9:31 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from the Free Software Fellowship

A number of extraordinarily defamatory emails have been circulated in the free software community recently. One plots to control the behavior of a representative democratically elected by the FSFE community by coordinating (colluding? conspiring?) with other free software communities. Is it appropriate that two organizations simultaneously threaten a developer who volunteered for and was elected as a community representative?

What, then, is the standard of behavior expected in FSFEland?

Put your clients first

Most people come to FSFE through the fellowship, volunteering and events. If you look closely at the FSFE web site you’ll find a small link at the bottom for the Legal Network. Many of the volunteers are oblivious to it. FSFE’s largest annual event is the Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW), with a six figure budget. A significant amount of staff time is spent supporting the Legal Network and LLW.

At LLW 2018, one FSFE member’s client submitted a speech proposal and it was rejected. The member in question lobbied to have this decision overturned. Using various other people in the organization, they succeeded in getting their client on the agenda and were subsequently found out. An incestuous web of business connections was exposed [beware: confidential email, names redacted].

It is amusing that the email concludes “what we ended up is a potential conflict of interest”, a huge understatement given the predatory behavior described.

In 2017, the fellowship representative had proposed a motion at the annual general meeting calling for an update of the conflict of interest policy. The policy was never updated, other members fought tooth and nail to remove him in 2018. Now we know why. As the only one without a conflict-of-interest, he just didn’t fit.

FSFE is effectively two organizations in one: the Legal Network and the fellowship/volunteer base. Those in the former benefit from the work of the volunteers yet the fellows/volunteers are not able to join the Legal Network and participate in their discussions.

Decrypting Cryptie

A close look at the FSFE General Assembly reveals at least one member, Cryptie, not using their real name.

In fact, Cryptie has been implicated in multiple incidents of bullying against volunteers, including this attack:

You didn’t stayed at the booth enough at Fosdem, never showed up at the booth at the RMLL and never joined at the FSFE community events in the evening at neither of the conferences.

When FSFE censored the fellowship representative in September 2018, anybody speaking up in support of the representative was branded a sock puppet or troll. Why, then, is Cryptie free to hide her identity?

As it turns out, Cryptie’s real name or real identity (Amandine L.) probably doesn’t matter as much as the fact that she works for an agency of the French state. Is it right that a Government employee can be a fly on the wall when FSFE is undertaking legal action against the French state? Is it right that in FSFE’s obfuscated legal structure, somebody not using their real name can have privileges over those who do, bullying and even threatening them?

Using the name of another organization to get into events

When FSFE was founded, they entered into a sister agreement with the FSF. The written agreement hasn’t been published on FSFE’s transparency page.

As it turns out, a senior member of FSFE’s council admitted that FSFE has abandoned that deal long ago [email, names redacted]. Yet they continue using the name because it attracts donations and helps them get booths and speaking slots at events. Does a community representative have a responsibility to report something so significant to the donors he represents?

Renting out volunteers who are oblivious to the deal

In 2017, FSFE studied an opportunity to accept paid work from other organizations and slip it into the workflow of volunteer translators. FSFE would net EUR 75 per page for the effort of volunteers. Eventually the plan was rejected on the basis that the volunteers were already too busy. Is this the type of deal that a community representative should be there to stop?


Define behavior

This is all just the tip of the iceberg.

Are the defamatory accusations about the behavior of the fellowship representative simply conjured up to disguise the bad behavior of others?

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