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Cliques That Form and Nepotistically Control Debian (Whilst Ousting Challengers and Intimidating Influential Contributors)

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 8:28 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

There have been many observations about the particularly sinister blackmailing of volunteers in Debian. It is notable that this took place at the time that a volunteer died, when another volunteer had lost a family member and by an even more bizarre coincidence, during the ongoing prosecution of leaders of the NXIVM sex cult in New York.

As racy details of the NXIVM abuses trickled out of the courtroom and into the newspapers each day, volunteers noted the similarities to how the Debian organization had been acting under the leadership of Chris Lamb.

A power couple

NXIVM was operated by Keith Raniere in collusion with his associate/girlfriend, the actress Allison Mack. Debian was officially led by Chris “lamby” Lamb, while his girlfriend Molly de Blanc (together: Mollamby) had created the infamous Anti-Harassment team, analogous to Scientology’s Sea Organization, to promote submissiveness and obedience under the guise of a “Code of Conduct”.

OSI Board

Branding people

In NXIVM, Raniere and Mack were branding their victims. They burnt their initials, KR & AM, in close proximity to victims’ genitalia.

Early in 2018, Alexander “formorer” Wirth had set up Debian’s public Git repositories, hosted in the Salsa.debian.org service. Shortly after this, at DebConf18 in Taiwan, Lamb had started the discussions about how to brand volunteers with adverse records in Git / Salsa. A few days before Christmas, this weapon was unleashed on Dr Norbert Preining, who maintains the LaTeX packages used widely in the academic world.

This is the permanent scar in a Git repository where Dr Preining is shunted to the DM sin-bin:

DM sin-bin

After doing that, the Debian gulag realised they didn’t have any evidence against their victims and so they put out calls for dirt to try and justify the shaming retrospectively:

Dr Norbert Preining shaming

These intentionally permanent scars in Git, mailing list archives and the Debian Bug Tracking System are functionally equivalent to the branding of NXIVM victims.

When volunteers have filed GDPR requests for the deletion of these records, Debian oligarchs have stonewalled and used Debian money to hire lawyers to perpetuate the abuse.

Joerg Jaspert: This is not involving anything from the universal declaration of human rights.

What a chilling comment from a German

Miriam Ballhausen Bird & Bird awyer abuse harassment of debian volunteer

Even with the GDPR, it appears that a volunteer’s chances of removing the scars of defamation from Debian infrastructure are no better than an NXIVM girl’s chances of removing scars from her skin.

Is Miriam Ballhausen at Bird & Bird a volunteer, or is Debian money paying her to write these GDPR denials? You can ask her.

Destroying people

Just as Debian oligarchs often use nicknames and acronyms, NXIVM’s founder, Raniere, had chosen to hide behind the pseudonym Vanguard, taken from an arcade game in which the destruction of one’s enemies increased one’s own power. It is a remarkable parallel to the style used by some of the worst leaders in Debian over the years.

In fact, every year there are public discussions about which Debian volunteers should face the firing squad. Enrico Zini, one of the Debian Account Managers who is currently engaged in blackmailing a volunteer, asked candidates in the 2006 leadership election to publicly name five people they would expel.

enrico zini harassment abuse volunteers

The people who write things like this have never done any real work themselves. If they had, they might understand that this is not the right way to thank volunteers for years of contributions to Debian.

molly de blanc cyberbully harassing volunteers

Can you imagine any other organization where participants egg each other on to publicly denounce volunteers, or is this only possible in the world of Scientology, NXIVM and Debian?

debian nxivm scientology

Keeping dossiers on people

Raniere & Co had a practice of building dossiers on people. Lamb’s girlfriend, de Blanc, boasted about the same practice, whispering networks, in her FOSDEM 2019 talk about being an enforcer. The debian-private leaks show that this has been going on in Debian for decades.

In an email leaked from FSFE, another organization racked by scandals, the FSFE president Matthias Kirschner relates a conversation he had with Chris Lamb:

One general wish — which I agreed with — from Debian was to better share information about people

The first conviction in the NXIVM case was that of Nancy Salzman, who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, tearfully confessed in court on March 13 that she tracked and monitored the usernames and passwords of suspected moles in the group to ensure they weren’t leaking details about the group’s inner workings.


Secret shame

NXIVM pressured their victims to provide nude photos, which were held as a form of collateral.

Lamb, de Blanc and their associates, the Anti-Harassment team and Debian Account Managers, had been making secret and totally invalid findings of misconduct against volunteers. Then they send their abusive finding to the volunteer with veiled threats to disclose these abusive verdicts if the volunteers do not become their submissive and obedient slaves. After observing the abuse of Dr Preining in a series of Git commits, another volunteer couragesouly called their bluff, stepping forward to reveal he was the first victim. Dr Preining then released a whole bundle of the criminal emails from these mafias.


Slavery and modern slavery mean different things in different contexts. Salzman’s daughter admitted in court that she kept another woman as a slave.

Some of Debian’s Google Summer of Code interns have come forward with allegations of non-payment. In 2018, one intern filed a complaint with Debian and then escalated to Stephanie Taylor, Google’s head of the GSoC program, after his mentor pushed him to work up to the last day of the internship and then withheld payment. Taylor refused to assist the intern. (Note: the student chose to disclose this matter publicly, we are not doing that without consent)

The two mentors for this student had disagreed: only one of them wanted to fail the intern. The other one felt the case justified closer consideration. Molly de Blanc overrode him as she didn’t want to bother Google with news of the childish bickering that plagues Debian. de Blanc then received a free trip to the GSoC mentor summit in California, funded by Google.

Google and Taylor are at the root of the slavery problem, insisting that the interns must always be referred to as students. This is a dishonest fudge to deny their status as workers.

The intern in question is from Bhopal, one of the most impoverished areas of India, decimated by the 1984 industrial disaster that has become synonymous with the name of the city.



The charges that eventually led to NXIVM jail time were on the basis of sex trafficking. We are not talking about teenage girls bought from Thailand. The victims of this sex trafficking program were educated and wealthy adult women, coerced into submission by blackmail.

The Code of Conduct enforcement mantras pushed by Molly de Blanc, in comparison, are aimed squarely at educated and wealthy adult men. Once again, the force of blackmail and fear of humiliation is used to deny people their freedom, as in the case of Dr Preining and other victims.

We can prove that this is blackmail very clearly: the message disclosed by Dr Norbert Preining shows that Debian oligarchs still expected him to maintain his packages after his secret expulsion. This factor makes the abuse indistinguishable from the blackmailing of NXIVM victims with nude photos.

Therefore, we are revoking your status as a Debian Developer with immediate effect… All packages in which you are currently listed as maintainer or uploader will be added to your Debian Maintainer whitelist as soon as possible.

Both NXIVM victims and Debian victims reported being coerced to do tasks for their would-be masters in much the same way.

NXIVM’s slaves did dishwashing and similar chores. Dr Preining’s work on the TeX-live packages is widely used in the international community of academics and researchers. Many now feel uncomfortable about how this software is produced but have little option to work around it.

Debian, under Chris Lamb and Molly de Blanc, had become nothing better than a revenge porn syndicate.

Enslaving women

Many of NXIVMs victims are women. Debian has been unable to attract women to enter as volunteers so they began enticing them into Debian with Outreachy internships. Debian’s community of volunteers has never had more than two percent (2.0%) female participation. While GSoC money is from Google’s bank account, the Outreachy stipends are paid from Debian’s own bank accounts, held by SPI Inc. Debian’s constitution states that contributors must be volunteers but the oligarchs have started using funds to pay women to volunteer. Multiple women have reported being threatened or coerced to behave in a particular way or they won’t continue to receive travel funding for Debian’s events. Some had even heard the case of the intern from Bhopal who never got paid.

In one disturbing case, multiple people have alleged somebody from Canonical Ltd, the company behind Ubuntu, was able to enter Debian as an official GSoC mentor and pursue a liaison with one of the women from a low income country attending DebConf on a diversity bursary.

NXIVM members spoke about building a dungeon where women could volunteer to be abused.

The belief that women enter such relationships and dungeons voluntarily and of their own free will is a dubious fantasy.

One of Debian’s GSoC admins resigned in August 2018 almost immediately after hearing about the relationship. Rather than listening to his concerns, oligarchs started spreading rumours to try and discredit his ethical stance.

Blaming and shaming victims

Due to the sexual nature of NXIVM crimes, the court suppressed the names of the victims from identification in the press. Raniere fought tooth and nail to try and have them named, hoping to cause embarassment.

Both previous Debian Project Leaders, Chris Lamb and Sam Hartman have followed in Raniere’s footsteps by making plots to shame and humiliate volunteers who speak up about cult phenomena in Debian.

In particular, when one volunteer resigned at a time of grief, Lamb completely ignored the privacy of their family and sent out over 60 secret emails denouncing that volunteer. People who behave like Lamb and Raniere can never be trusted in a position of power over other human beings.

Rituals where victims submit to the oligarchs

Lauren Salzman, whose mother co-founded NXIVM, recalls reciting the following self-deprecating oath when being branded:

Master, please brand me, It would be an honor. An honor that I want to wear for the rest of my life.

Dr Norbert Preining was forced to post similar words in the very public debian-project mailing list after three months of blackmail that occurred concurrently with the NXIVM trial:

I also will take care to listen carefully to advice and corrections,

In cooperation with DAM – and the invaluable help of some fellow DDs -
we have reached the agreement about my further status. DAM will write
about this in a separate email outlining the agreement and consequences.

Absolutely chilling.

A human rights perspective

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

and the European Convention on Human Rights:

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

It is clear that the communications circulated and perpetuated by Mollamby and their associates, backed by the weight of Debian’s reputation, are a violation of these rights.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Professor Nils Melzer, was no doubt thinking about organizations like Google and the way they use fronts like Debian and FSFE to shame their critics when he wrote that these organizations:

not only have the capacity to conduct cyber-operations inflicting severe suffering on countless individuals, but may well decide to do so for any of the purposes of torture. Cybertechnology can also be used to inflict, or contribute to, severe mental suffering while avoiding the conduit of the physical body, most notably through intimidation, harassment, surveillance, public shaming and defamation, as well as appropriation, deletion or manipulation of information.

As if to animate Professor Melzer’s prophecy, the Debian mailing lists have now been moderated/censored to avoid questions about these matters.

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