09.03.19

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Openwashing Report: Save the Term (or Concept of) ‘Open Source’ or Lose it For Good

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And remember that proprietary GitHub is… ‘openness’?

Weekly openwashing report

Summary: The term “Open Source” faces extinction by meaninglessness — a subject if not a taboo topic that seemingly bothers nobody, certainly not those standing to benefit from the idea that everything proprietary is actually “open”

THIS series is likely to become a regular feature here. Due to need, not to want(ing). Due to the growing urgency. We’re losing Software Freedom and almost nobody — not even the FSF — talks about it.

Here are some more examples.

When you call something “open” AI (or OpenAI), but refuse to release the code, what does open even mean? Or when you keep the code secret, for supposedly “ethical” reasons? As if there’s something inherently unethical about Free software.

“Microsoft censors not only FOSS projects; it also blocks developers and entire nations (massive collective punishment).”Welcome… to 2019.

Wired has published “OpenAI Said Its Code Was Risky. Two Grads Re-Created It Anyway”. As a reminder, Microsoft went as far as deleting other people’s AI code (in GitHub) and entire projects (also banned from GitHub) because they were “open” AI. For “ethical” reasons? Yes, criminals say they censor projects for “ethics”…

We already covered that at the time. Microsoft censors not only FOSS projects; it also blocks developers and entire nations (massive collective punishment). This is why Microsoft should have never been allowed to control GitHub. But remember what Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation chief) said publicly at Microsoft events when regulators considered the takeover; he said “Open Source loves Microsoft!”

GitHub, Linux Foundation, and MicrosoftSo much is at stake. Billions of hours of programmers’ work! Net worth: billions. The man in the Foundation sells Linux to Microsoft (et al) — a subject we’ll deal with in a later part. The man in charge of GitHub sold about 50 million Git repositories to Microsoft (the person in middle, the one shown above, is the man who came up with this idea almost half a decade ago, based on the company’s stenographer at Bloomberg).

“Free software in general is losing the “free as in speech” element.”But let’s go back to “open” AI. Putting aside the misuse of the term “AI” ("hey hi"), there are serious ramifications here. Censorship and secrecy are being branded “ethical”.

Free software in general is losing the “free as in speech” element. Extreme pretexts such as Nazism usher in the normalisation of censorship (of code).

There’s lots of good too in “hey hi” (a term we generally mock because it has often come to mean just about any algorithms/programs with if/else statements, i.e. branching/decisions). Here’s an example from last week’s news: When they say “hey hi” in the new article entitled “This Company Created An Open Source AI To Identify Mold” they mean machine learning with training, classifiers etc.

“Microsoft is moving them into the whole ‘Inner Source’ agenda (newspeak for proprietary software, akin to Shared Source).”Well, at least they actually share code.

Sadly, some go the other way.

“GOV.UK is the core platform for hosting government websites and information,” Derek du Preez wrote the other day in Diginomica, but now “GDS takes GOV.UK open source code and makes it private…”

The British government basically takes FOSS and makes it proprietary software. We could go on and talk about how many of these projects have been outsourced to Microsoft at GitHub (just like Linux Foundation projects). This probably merits a post of its own because as part of my ‘daytime’ (nighttime) job I see it all the time. Microsoft is moving them into the whole ‘Inner Source’ agenda (newspeak for proprietary software, akin to Shared Source). Open Source is being killed. Just like that. Silently. Behind ‘private’ repos. GitHub, i.e. Microsoft, says it makes these ‘free’ (gratis). Yes, proprietary software is… free!

“GitHub helps Microsoft steer a lot of this agenda.”These are of course direct attacks on the very core of Software Freedom. There are more and more of them as time goes by. GitHub helps Microsoft steer a lot of this agenda.

Another angle or vector of attacks is brand dilution — an aspect we’ve named here very often this past summer.

We have a new example.

Schlumberger is greenwashing (“ecosystem”) and openwashing the oil sector by calling a little open data venture “open source”; we also mentioned this last month. Publications called “Oil Review Middle East” and “Oil and Gas Middle East” have just done a couple more puff pieces, “Schlumberger open sources its data ecosystem and contributes to OSDU forum” and “Schlumberger open sources data ecosystem” [1, 2].

“Schlumberger is greenwashing and openwashing the oil sector by calling a little open data venture “open source”…”We’ve meanwhile also spotted the thing called “Quansight Futures” heradling the “Quansight Initiate”, starting with a press release [1, 2] entitled “New Venture Fund Targets Open-Source Entrepreneurs in Austin, TX” and then puff pieces based on the press release. This one says: “Quansight Futures, based in Austin, announced the launch of a new $20 million early-stage investment fund focused on open-source technology.”

This seems very much like openwashing, based on the press release that says, e.g. “startups that leverage open-source technologies” (read: merely exploit Open Source and give nothing back). This very closely relates to the subject we covered in the previous Openwashing Report (published a couple of hours ago).

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