Bonum Certa Men Certa

Google, Money and Censorship in Free Software Communities

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

T

On 30 June 2019, a Debian Developer sent the email below to the debian-project mailing list.



It never appeared.



Alexander Wirt (formorer) has tried to justify censoring the mailing list in various ways. Wirt has multiple roles, as both Debian mailing list admin and also one of Debian's GSoC administrators and mentors. Google money pays for interns to do work for him. It appears he has a massive conflict of interest when using the former role to censor posts about Google, which relates to the latter role and its benefits.



Wirt has also made public threats to censor other discussions, for example, the DebConf Israel debate. In that case he has wrongly accused people of antisemitism, leaving people afraid to speak up again. The challenges of holding a successful event in that particular region require a far more mature approach, not a monoculture.



Why are these donations and conflicts of interest hidden from the free software community who rely on, interact with and contribute to Debian in so many ways? Why doesn't Debian provide a level playing field, why does money from Google get this veil of secrecy?



Is it just coincidence that a number of Google employees who spoke up about harassment are forced to resign and simultaneously, Debian Developers who spoke up about abusive leadership are obstructed from competing in elections? Are these symptoms of corporate influence?



Is it coincidence that the three free software communities censoring a recent blog about human rights from their Planet sites (FSFE, Debian and Mozilla, evidence of censorship) are also the communities where Google money is a disproportionate part of the budget?



Could the reason for secrecy about certain types of donation be motivated by the knowledge that unpleasant parts of the donor's culture also come along for the ride?



The email the cabal didn't want you to see



Subject: Re: Realizing Good Ideas with Debian Money
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2019 23:24:06 +0200
From: a volunteer
To: debian-project@lists.debian.org, debian-devel@lists.debian.org



On 29/05/2019 13:49, Sam Hartman wrote: > > [moving a discussion from -devel to -project where it belongs] > >>>>>> "Mo" == Mo Zhou <lumin@debian.org> writes: > > Mo> Hi, > Mo> On 2019-05-29 08:38, Raphael Hertzog wrote: > >> Use the $300,000 on our bank accounts? > > So, there were two $300k donations in the last year. > One of these was earmarked for a DSA equipment upgrade.

When you write that it was earmarked for a DSA equipment upgrade, do you mean that was a condition imposed by the donor or it was the intention of those on the Debian side of the transaction? I don't see an issue either way but the comment is ambiguous as it stands.

Debian announced[1] a $300k donation from Handshake foundation.

I couldn't find any public disclosure about other large donations and the source of the other $300k.

In Bits from the DPL (December 2018), former Debian Project Leader (DPL) Chris Lamb opaquely refers[2] to a discussion with Cat Allman about a "significant donation". Although there is a link to Google later in Lamb's email, Lamb fails to disclose the following facts:

- Cat Allman is a Google employee (some people would already know that, others wouldn't)

- the size of the donation

- any conditions attached to the donation

- private emails from Chris Lamb indicated he felt some pressure, influence or threat from Google shortly before accepting their money

The Debian Social Contract[3] states that Debian does not hide our problems. Corporate influence is one of the most serious problems most people can imagine, why has nothing been disclosed?

Therefore, please tell us,

1. who did the other $300k come from? 2. if it was not Google, then what is the significant donation from Cat Allman / Google referred[2] to in Bits from the DPL (December 2018)? 3. if it was from Google, why was that hidden? 4. please disclose all conditions, pressure and influence relating to any of these donations and any other payments received

Regards,

Daniel

1. https://www.debian.org/News/2019/20190329 2. https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2018/12/msg00006.html 3. https://www.debian.org/social_contract


Censorship on the Google Summer of Code Mentor's mailing list



Google also operates a mailing list for mentors in Google Summer of Code. It looks a lot like any other free software community mailing list except for one thing: censorship.



Look through the "Received" headers of messages on the mailing list and you can find examples of messages that were delayed for some hours waiting for approval. It is not clear how many messages were silently censored, never appearing at all.



Recent attempts to discuss the issue on Google's own mailing list produced an unsurprising result: more censorship.



However, a number of people have since contacted community representatives privately about their negative experiences with Google Summer of Code. Here is one of the messages that Google didn't want other mentors to see, sent by one of the former Debian GSoC admins:



Subject: [GSoC Mentors] discussions about GSoC interns/students medical status
Date: Sat, 6 Jul 2019 10:56:31 +0200
From: a volunteer
To: Google Summer of Code Mentors List <google-summer-of-code-mentors-list@googlegroups.com>



Hi all,

Just a few months ago, I wrote a blog lamenting the way some mentors have disclosed details of their interns' medical situations on mailing lists like this one. I asked[1] the question: "Regardless of what support the student received, would Google allow their own employees' medical histories to be debated by 1,000 random strangers like this?"

Yet it has happened again. If only my blog hadn't been censored.

If our interns have trusted us with this sensitive information, especially when it concerns something that may lead to discrimination or embarrassment, like mental health, then it highlights the enormous trust and respect they have for us.

Many of us are great at what we do as engineers, in many cases we are the experts on our subject area in the free software community. But we are not doctors.

If an intern goes to work at Google's nearby office in Zurich, then they are automatically protected by income protection insurance (UVG, KTG and BVG, available from all major Swiss insurers). If the intern sends a doctor's note to the line manager, the manager doesn't have to spend one second contemplating its legitimacy. They certainly don't put details on a public email list. They simply forward it to HR and the insurance company steps in to cover the intern's salary.

The cost? Approximately 1.5% of the payroll.

Listening to what is said in these discussions, many mentors are obviously uncomfortable with the fact that "failing" an intern means they will not even be paid for hours worked prior to a genuine accident or illness. For 1.5% of the program budget, why doesn't Google simply take that burden off the mentors and give the interns peace of mind?

On numerous occasions Stephanie Taylor has tried to gloss over this injustice with her rhetoric about how we have to punish people to make them try harder next year. Many of our interns are from developing countries where they already suffer injustice and discrimination. You would have to be pretty heartless to leave these people without pay. Could that be why Googlespeak clings to words like "fail" and "student" instead of "not pay" and "employee"?

Many students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including women, have told me they don't apply at all because of the uncertainty about doing work that might never be paid. This is an even bigger tragedy than the time mentors lose on these situations.

Regards,

Daniel

1. https://danielpocock.com/google-influence-free-open-source-software-community-threats-sanctions-bullying/

-- Former Debian GSoC administrator https://danielpocock.com

Recent Techrights' Posts

Links 23/05/2024: Apple Responds to Streaming Music Fine, DOJ to Sue Live Nation
Links for the day
Links 23/05/2024: UK General Election and Archival
Links for the day
[Video] 3 Major Issues in Nationwide, Including (Potentially) a Major Data Breach
'electronic-bank' security has become the joke of the town
[Meme] Pointing Out Corruption Isn't a "Hate Crime"
The European Commission's reflexive (re)action to any sort of doubt or criticism
More Evidence in "iLearn AI Day" (a Buzzwords Festival) That EPO Intends to Eliminate Staff and Deviate Further Away from Fairness, Law, and Constitutions (Including Its Own!)
The EPO is a very potent danger to Europe's unity and the very concept of lawfulness. It exists to serve international monopolists and patent lawyers.
Microsoft's Windows Has Fallen Below 3% in Democratic Republic of the Congo (100+ Million Citizens)
Microsoft's sharp fall in Congo
The Real Reason Censorship is Attempted Against Us (and Against Others Too)
Microsoft's Windows market monopoly was in trouble
You Are Not The Only One
Reprinted with permission from Cyber Show (C|S)
GNU/Linux in Monaco: From 0.3% to Almost 6%
Monaco is a small country
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, May 22, 2024
IRC logs for Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Microsoft Has Lost Cote D'ivoire (Ivory Coast), Where Android Now Exceeds 60% of the Operating Systems' 'Market Share'
According to statCounter anyway
The Rumour Said Later Today Red Hat (IBM) Might Announce Layoffs
Let's see what happens later today (or next week)
Governments That Fail Journalism
Australia is known for giving us pure garbage like Rupert Murdoch
Windows Has Fallen From 'Grace'
When you tell people that Microsoft watches their every move in Windows many of them will freak out and ask for alternatives
Serbia: GNU/Linux at Almost 4% (or Beyond if ChromeOS is Counted)
considerable growth for GNU/Linux
Links 22/05/2024: China in Other Countries' Islands, Growing Threat of Piracy
Links for the day
Gemini Links 22/05/2024: Freedom Through Limitation, Cloud Photos
Links for the day
Canonical Supports Monopoly
more of the same
A farewell to Finland, an occupied territory
Finland, Finland, Finland
Links 22/05/2024: "Copilot+" as Mass Surveillance and Microsoft Defying Consent in Scarlett Johansson's Case
Links for the day
[Meme] Escalating After Failures
4 stages of cancel culture
Red Hat Had 2+ Days to Deny Reports of Impending Layoffs. But Red Hat Chose to Keep Silent.
Red Hat DOES NOT deny layoffs on the way
Microsoft-Connected Person Was Threatening to Sue Me and to Sue My Wife (Because His Feelings Were Hurt After Had He Spent More Than a Decade Defaming Me and Violating My Family's Dignity, Privacy)
litigation was chosen and we shall defend everything we wrote
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, May 21, 2024
IRC logs for Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Attempts to Sink the Free Software Movement (Under the Guise of Saving It)
We can see who's being drowned
Czech Republic: Windows Down From 98% to 43%, GNU/Linux Rises to Over 3%
modest gains for GNU/Linux
Links 22/05/2024: Pixar Layoffs and More Speculation About Microsoft Shutdowns/Layoffs (Ninja Theory)
Links for the day
Microsoft-Connected Sites Trying to Shift Attention Away From Microsoft's Megabreach Only Days Before Important If Not Unprecedented Grilling by the US Government?
Why does the mainstream media not entertain the possibility a lot of these talking points are directed out of Redmond?
Gemini Links 21/05/2024: Caesar II for MS-DOS and Reinventing the Assertion Wheel
Links for the day
Internal Memos/Communications Hinting at "a New, But Masked, Round of Layoffs" at Red Hat
A negative outlook heads of a long weekend
Nigeria: Windows Down to 6%, Android at All-Time High of 77%
Google is becoming the "new monopoly" in some places
[Video] Microsoft's Attack on Education
Microsoft's cult-like activities and overt entryism
[Meme] Money In, No Money Out (Granting Loads of Invalid European Patents)
EPO production?
Staff Representation at the EPO Has Just Explained to Heads of Delegations (National Delegates) Why the EPO's Financial Study is Another Hoax
Here we are again 5 years later
Canonical and Red Hat Are Not Competing With Microsoft Anymore
What a shame they hired so many people from Microsoft...
Links 21/05/2024: "Hating Apple Goes Mainstream", Lots of Coverage About Julian Assange Ruling
Links for the day
Gemini Links 21/05/2024: Losing Fats and Modern XMPP
Links for the day
Microsoft Windows Used to Have Nearly 100% in China and Now Google Has 50% (With Android)
Will China bring about a faster "fall" for Microsoft?
Pursuing a Case With No Prospects (Because It's "Funny")
the perpetrators are taking a firm that's considered notorious
GNU/Linux Growing Worldwide (the Story So Far!)
Microsoft is unable to stop GNU/Linux
GNU/Linux in Honduras: From 0.28% to 6%
Honduras remains somewhat of a hotspot
Good News From Manchester and London, Plus High Productivity in Techrights
what has happened and what's coming
[Video] The 'Linux' Foundation Cannot be Repaired Anymore (It Sold Out)
We might need to accept that the Linux Foundation lost its way
Links 21/05/2024: Tesla Layoffs and Further Free Speech Perils Online
Links for the day
Gemini Links 21/05/2024: New Gemini Reader and Gemini Games
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Monday, May 20, 2024
IRC logs for Monday, May 20, 2024