03.04.21

The Free Software Foundation Should Re-add Richard Stallman to the Board

Posted in FSF at 1:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman is missed by many who perceive him to have been wrongly treated; putting Stallman back in the Board (at the very least) would help the image of the Free Software Foundation more than the newly-announced work with Community Consulting Teams of Boston

SEVERAL hours ago the Free Software Foundation (FSF) said it had been “awarded consulting project grant from Community Consulting Teams of Boston” (CCT) and there are already some speculating that this may be notable news because they might “recommend that the FSF abandons its free software roots” (something which partly happened 2 years ago when few members of the Board pushed out RMS, the founder, soon to be followed by efforts to censor people who spoke out in favour of RMS).

“To a lot of people, myself included, the outspoken (not radical, just bluntly honest) nature of the FSF is what contributed to its popularity.”Based on our understanding (informed sources), RMS still plays a role at the FSF, albeit less publicly. He’s still the head of the GNU Project, even if he does not speak publicly as much as he used to.

Alexandre OlivaTo a lot of geeks (not greedy and racist corporations like IBM/Red Hat), RMS is the reason they generally support the FSF and the perception that RMS was betrayed by few elements at the FSF (elements that have since then partly or entirely departed) isn’t helping. A few months ago Alex Oliva left the Board, which is kind of sad but not the end of the world…

To a lot of people, myself included, the outspoken (not radical, just bluntly honest) nature of the FSF is what contributed to its popularity. If they want to regain credibility, re-adding RMS to the Board would be a step in the right direction. Don’t try to appease a bunch of lying trolls from Salesforce and racists from IBM (they should fix themselves first). Remember who originally built and supported Free software. Not those companies that outsource almost all their code to proprietary software of Microsoft (GitHub) while crushing communities or cost-free options.

02.26.21

The Free Software Foundation Warns Against Using Twitter

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 6:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: Richard Stallman said Twitter was OK because it was possible to use it without proprietary software; that’s no longer the case, so the Free Software Foundation (FSF) speaks out against it. It speaks about it more than 3 months after the problem became a known one and also an irreversible one (maybe Twitter would have reversed the decision if the media or the FSF actually spoke about it early enough).

I

LAST spoke to Dr. Stallman about Twitter (on the record) when he visited the UK. “I don’t think Twitter is wrong,” he told me about 7 years ago in Lincoln (more here). The subject came up a number of times over the years and yesterday Greg Farough of the FSF (founded by Stallman) finally noted that “on December 15th, Twitter removed its “legacy” Web interface. As opposed to its much larger and more complex default Web client, the legacy interface did not use proprietary JavaScript (or any JavaScript).”

“I already mentioned it to them way ahead of December 15th…”It took them a while to notice or to bring up this issue. I already mentioned it to them way ahead of December 15th (it was mentioned here even more than once), half a year after I had semi-left Twitter (going ‘write-only’).

As the old saying goes, better late than never. Finally the FSF speaks out against Twitter. In the video above I discuss some background information (based purely on facts, not conjecture) and the latest take from the FSF.

02.09.21

GNOME Foundation and OSI Move on to ‘Extend’ Phase Against the Free Software Definition (or Against Software Freedom)

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNOME, GPL, OSI at 4:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: Today, February 9th, the anti-RMS lobby seems to have shifted gear by redefining proprietary software as ‘kinda open’ (openwashing)

The video above, which is in no way scripted or edited, is an urgent call for action because the war on software freedom is gradually progressing to the next phase, which is “extend” (the “embrace” goes quite some time back). The flailing OSI is changing its “Mission Statement”, just as both OSI co-founders warned last year (one thought "ethical" licences would be the vector and the other said that licences not compliant w.r.t. OSD were being approved regardless). The GNOME Foundation, which still works against the founder of GNU (the “G” in GNOME) while on IBM payroll and with two former leaders who now work full-time for Microsoft, redefines proprietary software (Four Freedoms be gone!), apparently one hour apart from the OSI post. The video discusses the importance of this and who stands to benefit. Moving the goalposts in whose favour? In favour of proprietary software.

01.20.21

Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part V: How FSF Secrecy Ended Up Insulting People, Alienating Trans Developers

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 10:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This wouldn’t have happened if no secrecy was entertained as an option

Summary: Having just uploaded this introductory video, we delve into the backstory or the real reason the FSF sank into somewhat of a crisis with the trans community almost half a decade ago

THIS post will hopefully not be misunderstood. It is by no means a criticism of individuals; it’s a bunch of constructive suggestions and some observations about what really happened several years ago at the FSF.

The FSF is the primary proponent of Free software; it is also the oldest (turning 36 years old later this year). The FSF supports the GNU Project and provides a supportive framework for it. GNU, in turn, facilitates many volunteers and developers who contribute to the cause of software freedom. Some of these developers are purely volunteers, whereas others are salaried by companies such as Red Hat (IBM).

“The FSF is the primary proponent of Free software; it is also the oldest (turning 36 years old later this year).”I myself am a proponent of the FSF and quite a few of us at Techrights (e.g. IRC) are FSF members. Some of us are trans. That’s not really the subject of debate here; instead, we deal with how secrecy can beget offence/insults.

In Historic First, Biden Picks Trans Woman, Dr. Rachel Levine, to Help Lead HHSOur general view is, technology and merits of programmers should be looked at irrespective of gender. We already see evidence of the president inaugurated today having the courage to act accordingly (article from yesterday shown to the right).

In Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV we talked about elements of secrecy being a peril; they breed suspicion and mistrust. We generally think that secrecy is a lot more risky than beneficial. It has the potential to cause embarrassment. With transparency, for example, the tone of conversations would simply not be the same (a higher level of restraint and ‘professionalism’).

Just to be clear, we don’t advocate leaking FSF ‘secrets’. We just want to better understand past events.

As somebody recently told us, “do you know GNU removed many voices that were against RMS?” (Richard Stallman)

“…do you know GNU removed many voices that were against RMS?”
      –Anonymous
“For example,” we’ve learned, “you can probably find that Matt Lee was silently wiped from the list of GNU speakers if you look at web.archive.org or something…”

Matt Lee blocked me in Twitter after I had politely responded to an RMS-hostile tweet of his. “Matt Lee was a sysadmin and he was calling on RMS to quit the FSF on Twitter,” we’ve been told, “after he quit MIT…”

SANDERS WARREN BIDEN: Tech Before GenderLee made no ambiguities/secrets about that. I met Lee in person a very long time ago (amicable meeting), so seeing his flippant reaction (blocking me in Twitter for a polite tweet) was a little surprising. And “also,” we’ve been told, “RMS is truly out of MIT, that was a final decision, but it’s not the first time he left them…”

And “still,” we’ve been told, “whenever RMS defended [himself] from this crowd, he did so silently…”

So there was more going on behind the scenes — something many weren’t privy to or aware of.

“RMS is truly out of MIT, that was a final decision, but it’s not the first time he left them…”
      –Anonymous
The case of point, which the video alludes to, is the Rowe incident. It apparently started after
Lisa Maginnis had leaked information about inside affairs at the FSF. “Lisa Maginnis was fired [sic] over this [as] she leaked something…” (according to our source)

If secrecy is an issue, then the organisation can become more vulnerable. We saw some FSF insiders (and maybe Alex Oliva also) trying to enhance transparency, but so far we see evidence of mostly backlash against those attempting to push in that direction (increasing visibility). I mean, what good is leaking of information that only few can see? As it turns out, Maginnis didn’t just leak it for everyone to see. The intent wasn’t to damage the FSF. The nature or purpose of the leak was to highlight a concern; We were told “she leaked that the FSF, in the 2000s, rejected a transgender woman from getting a job there on the grounds that she is “ugly, and would upset the rest of the employees”” (paraphrased).

Our source said that “this was only leaked to Leah Rowe [...] and Leah Rowe went everywhere asking for John Sullivan to be banned [...] err, not banned, I mean removed” (same effect).

But “this got Lisa fired,” [sic] whereas John Sullivan is still in the FSF. “Fired” is possibly not the correct term here, but either way, the person punished probably did not deserve this. Our source inquired, “do you remember when libreboot left GNU?”

“…she leaked that the FSF, in the 2000s, rejected a transgender woman from getting a job there on the grounds that she is “ugly, and would upset the rest of the employees” (paraphrased).”
      –Anonymous
Well, it came back. But much damage had been done prior to that. Our source noted that “the transgender woman that was rejected in the 2000s was Julia Longtin [...] a great mistake on the part of the FSF [sic] she would have done a great job…”

Some pages in the FSF’s directory list Julia Longtin as “Maintainer.”

Maginnis is no longer in the FSF, so we can say out loud (publicly) what we know (subjected to creative obfuscation that hides the sources).

And just to “clarify,” as the source told us, “Leah Rowe asked for John Sullivan to be removed, but I have found no evidence he was involved in the rejection of Julia Longtin [...] in fact, it seems to have been someone else, who has since left the FSF more than a decade ago…”

There’s reason to believe that it’s no longer an issue because, according to our source, Rowe is still involved, unlike those whom she accused; “she also accused two people of transphobia,” we were told, “who have also since left the FSF (both staffers)…”

“…she also accused two people of transphobia, who have also since left the FSF (both staffers)…”
      –Anonymous
“Lisa Maginnis was fired [sic] in 2016-ish or 2017″ and her blog posts for the FSF stopped at around that time. Maybe a monumental loss. Maybe transparency would averted that loss.

We’ve asked around about Maginnis and about the Julia Longtin incident. Some of that is rather old news and suppressed news.

“I do not have any insider information about that incident,” one person told us. “I tried to talk to Lisa after the incident, but couldn’t ever reach her again. The only contacts I had for her were the FSF email address, that no longer worked, and her IRC nick, that seems to have gone unused from then on. We’d had good rapport during LibrePlanet before that, and I was disappointed I couldn’t offer her any support at that time.”

That’s quite outdated. “I tried to talk to Leah Rowe about it back then,” this person recalled, “but she didn’t seem to be very happy that I was “investigating” the matter.”

In a sense, in order to better understand Rowe’s grievances it helps to know what actually happened. Nobody will be punished for merely talking.

“I tried to talk to Lisa after the incident, but couldn’t ever reach her again.”
      –Anonymous
“I talked to Richard Stallman,” one person told us, “and he told me something to the effect that he trusted Lisa hadn’t been wronged by FSF management. Nothing much different from his public statements on the matter at the time. So I don’t really know anything about what happened, other than what transpired to the public at large back then.”

We think that the key point is, someone said something rather offensive internally. This would be a lot less likely had there been more transparency and much of that old crisis would have been avoided.

01.18.21

Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part IV: Stories From the Depths of the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 5:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

tl;dr Transparency prevents embarrassment

Free Software Foundation (FSF) donors

Summary: To reduce or alleviate suspicions and a potential of mistrust the FSF needs to become more transparent and liberate information (such as the real reason Bradley Kuhn left, as noted in the previous part)

THERE are past stories about the FSF. Those stories may seem like “old news”, but there are aspects of those stories long suppressed. The public needs to understand what actually happened. Otherwise, people can shape their views based on mere speculations and misunderstandings.

“The payments can be called “sponsorship” or “patronage” or whatever; there are strings attached to such money, especially if there’s a prospect of annual renewal (subjected to periodic assessment and sometimes pre-imposed conditions).”In Part I, Part II, and Part III we explained that corporate impact or moneyed factors sought to steer institutions that would otherwise antagonise them. The payments can be called “sponsorship” or “patronage” or whatever; there are strings attached to such money, especially if there’s a prospect of annual renewal (subjected to periodic assessment and sometimes pre-imposed conditions). This happens a lot in politics and it imperils free speech because of that ‘sixth sense’ about financial ramifications associated with the expression of particular views.

Just to be very clear right from the start/outset, the donors of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) are reasonably benign. It’s nowhere as grotesque as what goes on at the OSI and Linux Foundation. This year and last year’s page says a lot; the FSF’s donors page suggests that they increasingly rely on members, not companies like Google and IBM. That’s a positive thing.

Secrecy breeds conspiracy nonsense. But Benghazi, What about Benghazi?, Did you sexually molest Benghazi too?I am very saddened by the departure of Alex Oliva from the FSF. Having said that, he explained to me that it was a decision both himself and RMS (the FSF’s founder) were generally OK with and I recently noticed that he had moved on to other very interesting endeavours. My main concern is that people inside the FSF falsely accused him of things he had never done. “I suppose you can see how easy it would be for someone to blame any leaks from within the FSF on me,” he recently told me. Some leaks that we received (if those even qualify as leaks at all) were wrongly blamed on him. That’s just beyond unfortunate. We’ve had many people with inside knowledge approach us over the years. My communications with Oliva are actually out there, in public, in open domains such as Diaspora. I don’t need to speak to him privately to better understand what goes on at the FSF because he’s very transparent about it — to the point of causing himself trouble (as was the case after publishing the “GNU year” blog post). As he noted the other day, “you’ve seen how I’m striving to keep my commitments and obligations of confidence on FSF internal information I’ve had access to.”

That’s correct. Here in Techrights we publish almost everything, sometimes in mildly redacted form. This way we have very little to hide (except maybe names) and scrutiny can be done in the open, with no speculations necessary. People who are in IRC can see what happens almost in real time and those who just lurk or read IRC logs need to wait for (at most) 24 hours.

If this series reopens some old wounds or sores (or sores code), then fine. We strive to better understand what goes on at the FSF. Sometimes I debate these things openly with a whole bunch of people, including RMS. The FSF oughtn’t try to guard its reputation by secrecy because such a strategy does not scale when dealing with panels or large teams which in turn speak outwards (with other people, those outside the circle of trust). In the next part we’ll give an example of that.

01.17.21

Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part III: The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Seems More Like a Victim of Destabilisation Campaigns

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 1:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Sanders hints the ‘Bernie Bros’ could be Russian botsSummary: The Free Software Foundation (FSF), which turns 36 later this year, is looking to raise money that helps support the GNU Project, soon 38 years old and likely the most important Free software project to exist (ever)

IN PART I AND IN PART II we talked about a ‘hidden hand’ (but sometimes unwittingly revealed in IRS disclosures and “sponsors” pages) inside the Free software world. It’s not hard to see why people who think like Richard Stallman and openly (or freely) berate things would bother those who are indirectly — sometimes even directly — complicit in bombings (killing civilians for profit) and would rather, instead, obsess/bicker about supposedly offensive words. Taming a community isn’t easy because it’s hard to fire or banish people (there’s an alternative or parallel construct though; that’s where the CoC becomes handy). That’s setting aside extensive PR campaigns or even fakes/provocation efforts.

“It seems like with or without Oliva, the FSF is in decent hands now.”The resignation of Alex Oliva wasn’t as big a deal as we had imagined. Stallman’s voice was “one of the friendly voices,” Oliva explained. “He and I talked a lot about it.” It seems like with or without Oliva, the FSF is in decent hands now. Not perfect, albeit decent. Nevertheless, it’s easy to get the impression that the coup persists, especially each time the GNOME Foundation opens its mouth. But the GNOME Foundation’s attacks on Stallman go well more than a decade back; we covered examples over the years and we saw two GNOME Foundation chiefs going to work directly to Microsoft, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in the GNOME Foundation (the GNOME project itself is related to the GNOME Foundation but isn’t entirely the same, just as GNU and FSF aren’t the same thing).

“It’s as ludicrous as IBM’s claims that it confronts racism; in reality, IBM perpetuated and profited from direct and overt racism, not just institutionalised racism.”As I worked rather hard researching for this series I generally came to the conclusion that the FSF is mostly the victim of provocation and destabilisation efforts. Some of them are directly corporate, albeit sometimes the corporations seem to be co-opting groups to do their biddings, in effect siccing them or unleashing them at projects/institutions that they hope to weaken (or whose agenda/steering they seek to undermine). In this video I discuss some of my findings so far and future parts will shed light on incidents never seen (or heard about) by the public before. I’ve long found it rather ironic that greedy and intolerant corporations claim to champion tolerance. It’s as ludicrous as IBM’s claims that it confronts racism; in reality, IBM perpetuated and profited from direct and overt racism, not just institutionalised racism. Microsoft sometimes tries to portray itself as a company that cracks down on crime (e.g. “cybercrime”) when Microsoft itself was founded by convicts who spent the whole time (45+ years) committing crimes — a tradition they maintain to this very day and extends well beyond the realm of software.

Sanders and Biden: Free software, Open(washing) (closed) SourceHow ethical is one who redefines ethics and then warps the abuser-victim narrative? We’ve seen this debated before, e.g. in the context of FSFE and Debian. There’s a reason courts exist and due process is still cherished by most people (despite the costs). If we let mobs and rich people dominate the narratives, or if we let rich people weaponise online mobs, who stands to gain and who stands to lose?

01.16.21

Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part II: Why Bradley Kuhn Left the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 7:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Or why the FSF in 2021 is mostly OK

Bradley-Kuhn-LF
Frame source (fair use): Video [1, 2] from the Linux Foundation

Summary: The founder of the FSF is still at the FSF (albeit not publicly) and the person who lobbied to oust him has basically been ‘banished’ by the founder

IN PART I of this series we took note (without mentioning any names) of people who had entered the Free software world on behalf of super-wealthy employers (multi-billionaires), mostly to disrupt software freedom. Sometimes those aren’t employers but clients or sponsors (such as Google and Microsoft).

As already noted in our Intel leaks (ongoing series), there’s always the risk of infiltration by hostile entities, especially large corporations. Their goals aren’t the same as the institutions which they infiltrate. Ask Nokia. The Conservancy (SFC) is a good example of this; check where it raises money from…

One side story not many people are aware of is the cause for Bradley Kuhn’s (SFC) departure from the FSF’s Board. “I have been silent the last month because, until two days ago, I was an at-large member of FSF’s Board of Directors, and a Voting Member of the FSF,” he wrote in his blog.

Richard Stallman (RMS) is still a voting member at the FSF. He never left. And “if you read the FSF’s bylaws,” a source told us, “voting members add and remove board members” so in effect “they’re above the board” albeit not listed anywhere. As it stands at present (2021), “RMS’s resignation applied only to the position of chairman and member of the board,” which means he still participates in important decisions. Free software advocates and FSF supporters deserve to know this; it’s of public interest, for sure…

The backdrop or the context of all this matters as it is not specified in the public record. The blog post from Kuhn is “the only public part of the discussion,” but there’s more to it, privately.

As it turns out, RMS (founder of GNU and FSF) said something along the lines of (to paraphrase), if there’s a conflict of interest arising when serving as the President of the Conservancy and being a Board member at the FSF, then perhaps one should leave either the Conservancy or the FSF.

RMS was referring to Bradley Kuhn after the Conservancy had issued a strongly-worded press release, likely instrumental in disgracing RMS and causing him to step down at the end. Kuhn took that message into account “and the next day,” we’re told, “Kuhn made a blog post and resigned from the FSF Board… he could have left the Conservancy instead.”

“…in order to meet its goal, the FSF needs about 36 more new members in 48 hours.”So in effect, as the record suggests, Kuhn wasn’t forced out but was given a choice and his blog post is basically, as it turns out, a “response to the voting members insisting that he take a side, about 5 days later [as] probably he also sent an internal notice quitting from the Board and as a voting member…”

This story is worth sharing because this week the fundraising by the FSF is ending. About a week ago I made a video calling for people to support the FSF, where RMS basically continues to play a role (as a voting member). As shown below, in order to meet its goal, the FSF needs about 36 more new members in 48 hours.

FSF funds

01.12.21

GNOME Foundation is Still Participating in the Attack on Richard Stallman

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNOME, GNU/Linux at 5:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: GNOME’s supposed ‘representatives’ (close-knit friends with Microsoft connections) continue to attack RMS (Richard Stallman), the founder of GNU (the G in GNOME) and the Free Software Movement

THE GNOME FOUNDATION has never been much of an ally of Free software, at least not over the past decade and a half. Richard Stallman had called Miguel de Icaza a “traitor| well before he officially joined Microsoft and seeing how his successor too joined him at Microsoft and how the author of this new post got the job from McGovern (an old friend of the boyfriend) does not inspire confidence. Something is deeply rotten at this “foundation” (not the same as the GNOME Project with its pertinent developers), which is bossed by a successor of Microsoft moles, who have since then joined the anti-GNU movement. They went on to working directly for Microsoft. Similarly, the Linux Foundation is run by somebody who rejects Linux.

“Something is deeply rotten at this “foundation” (not the same as the GNOME Project with its pertinent developers), which is bossed by a successor of Microsoft moles, who have since then joined the anti-GNU movement.”It’s not clear if the number in this post, 1028, is just coincidentally similar to 1024 (2 to the power of 10). Either way, there’s nothing geeky about it. As psydroid said in IRC some moments ago, “from all the things that threaten free software she could only pick those points, which looks like not wanting to tackle more pertinent issues out of a fear of angering some sponsors and other invested parties… free software is all about CoCs now.”

“Only a few days ago Alex Oliva stepped down from the FSF’s Board, apparently after increased pressure on him.”There are the types who try to come across as geeks but whose arguments are not technical, not even remotely. It boils down to personal attacks, personifying an issue, then attacking the person*, piggybacking ‘Trumpgate’ to attack Stallman, who strongly opposes Trump.

In the video I speak out my views — however sincere — based on 14 years of writing about the GNOME Foundation. My thoughts after reading this post (connected directly to the GNOME Foundation) include concerns about the coup against Stallman still being an “ongoing thing” (2 years after “9/11″ of 2019). Only a few days ago Alex Oliva stepped down from the FSF’s Board, apparently after increased pressure on him.

___
* As a non-software example, pay close attention to how media refuses to talk about what Wikileaks has taught the public, instead shifting attention to the personality of the founder.

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