06.30.19

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The FSF Has Become Too Passive to Tackle Some Emergent and Growing Threats

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GPL at 9:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Savannah or the Safari of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) loses some safeties

Wild animal

Summary: In this “ecosystem” which the FSF does not want to talk about (not in these terms anyway) there are predators who thrive in apathy; there ought to be more discussion about newer threats to society’s freedoms in the increasingly-digital age

THE “Librethreat Database” (composed by an anonymous contributor earlier this month) speaks of new attack paradigms/vectors which weaken the freedom associated with Free software. We recently noted that even Richard Stallman was being marginalised, just like Linus Torvalds. More corporations-friendly (controlled by large corporations) people like Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation emerge as “heroes” and become the “stars of the show,” supported by corporate media which is meanwhile demonising the likes of Stallman (this has gone on for decades) and more recently Torvalds, causing him to even take his first-ever longterm break from his own project. How dare Torvalds speak of feces?

“If publishers aren’t entirely sympathetic towards Western hegemony, then the fast-and-loose tactic would be to accuse them of being willful (or “useful idiot”) ‘agents’ of Russia/Putin.”Disciplinary measures or precautions against the founders of GNU and of Linux should not be taken lightly. It’s generally an apparatus of leverage. If this can be done to them, it can be done to just about anyone. We could go on naming a bunch of examples (high-profile people), but that would distract from the key point.

A weapon of defamation and smears that we recently brought up was Russophobia, seeing how it was leveraged not just in the technical world but also in the world of journalism. If publishers aren’t entirely sympathetic towards Western hegemony, then the fast-and-loose tactic would be to accuse them of being willful (or “useful idiot”) ‘agents’ of Russia/Putin. We’ve seen this tactic leveraged against a whole bunch of publishers in recent years — to the point where Google started deranking/delisting particular news sites, based on misinformation about those sites rather than misinformation coming from these sites.

“Copyleft, or the GPL with its four essential freedoms, was once the protective shell of Free software.”One recurring theme we’ve witnessed in social (control) media sites is that the FSF should do more. There’s this bunch of new threats, including but not limited to Microsoft entryism, which the FSF mostly ignores/overlooks. Sure, there’s also the attack on GPL/copyleft, there’s DRM, UEFI ‘secure boot’ and to the FSF’s credit, it does deal with these issues, at least verbally (if not by technical means).

Earlier this year we asserted that “Linux” world domination without any of the associated (or assumed) freedoms would not be a big accomplishment. We wouldn’t end up better off than the ‘old order’. Why? Because listening devices (marketed as “smart” “assistants”) proliferate, tinkering with hardware and software becomes harder (if not impossible as well as legally verboten) and there’s a whole bunch of other factors.

“The GPL is no ‘rhino’ layer for those who refuse to ‘wear’ it (and Microsoft’s takeover of GitHub further contributes to that).”This isn’t a harsh criticism of the FSF, with which we have far more in common than most; we just hope that the FSF will at least recognise that, based on what we have been reading, there’s this sentiment or general impression that more must be done. There will soon be a long Techrights series to that effect.

Copyleft, or the GPL with its four essential freedoms, was once the protective shell of Free software. These types of licences, however, are under constant attacks (a smear campaign) from Microsoft partners that we habitually mention, probably not as often as we should. The GPL is no ‘rhino’ layer for those who refuse to ‘wear’ it (and Microsoft’s takeover of GitHub further contributes to that).

Another wild animal

To end on a more positive note, we very much support the FSF and its mission. We view ourselves as complementary rather than alternative to it. If there are certain issues and concerns that the FSF is unwilling to talk about or does not regard as worthy of entertaining, so be it. At least the FSF, unlike the OSI, did not take Microsoft money and does not have Microsoft staff on its Board.

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A Single Comment

  1. Canta said,

    June 30, 2019 at 12:54 pm

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    I don’t think asking the FSF for more is the way to go. Of course, that depends of what “asking for more” means. But I’m talking about “extend its reach” kind of claim.

    Sure, many things (as the ones stated in the librethreat database) are dangers to software freedom. I, as a programmer myself, agree almost fully with that database. But most likely if/when the FSF talk about anything outside their primary scope, it will be noise. Like when Stallman speaks about systemd (telling us that is ethical software because is free software).

    I believe software activism/militancy needs its own heterogeneity, and not just a single sole point of hight density mass like the FSF. That’s just too frail of an structure. There are different debates, and asking a single organization to respond for all of them ends up, when sucessful, in what today we know as political parties: big organizations, more focused in persisting some kind of status quo and realpolitiks than defending some basic principles.

    I say we embrace heterogeneity. And with that I mean “create multiple organizations, not exactly all the same”. Take a look at gender and feminism, for example. It’s been generations of work in that field, and against all odds its gaining a fantastic momentum all around the world. And that is being done whithout a single organization leading, and with a cluster of small but intense (and constantly conflicting) ethical organizations. A single feminist group does not accounts for all women problems. And that way, you can have women like sucessful business leaders and marginal anti-system radicals marching hand to hand on the streets when it’s about women rights.

    And not everything they do is ok. It’s not about being always right. It’s about changing something that is funtamentally wrong. And thing is, for that, power is needed.

    Entities like Microsoft are leeches for power. Business corps in general are. They’re good at that. What I feel we need to do is focus in that power dynamics, instead of trying to close our eyes and cover our nose when it appears: we seem to be losing Mozilla that way, and Linux.

    Free software movement is in a very special historical position: it’s no longer a theory, and it has huge impact in society. Informatics is also a very young discipline, and tech changes happens way too fast for anybody to fully grasp it on time. Those are unique and difficult problems in the history of humanity, and I don’t find it healthy to ask for solutions always to the same people: they’ll burn if we do. There has to be leverage in other organizations, parallelizing the debates, and making that way software freedom as an everybody issue.

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