Bonum Certa Men Certa

Debian History Harassment & Abuse culture evolution

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Feb 26, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

With the Debian anniversary approaching [sic], it is a good opportunity to look at the real history of Debian, based on the disclosures from debian-private.

There are over 70,000 messages on debian-private. They have gradually been emerging over IPFS. As more evidence appears, it will be added in the appropriate place below. Please bookmark this page and check back from time to time to see what has been added. Follow the independent Debian.News site to keep abreast of Debian disclosures that may impact you.

Thought exercise: at what point did Debian turn into a cult?.

Some of the overlords insist that all the conflict in Debian is the fault of a single volunteer. What we see in the leaked debian-private emails is 30 years of everybody fighting with everybody else.

17 August 1945: George Orwell publishes Animal Farm

Ironically, publishers had initially blacklisted the book.

1980s: Dr Richard Stallman (RMS)

In 1983, Dr Stallman founded the GNU Project and in 1985, the FSF.

In 1989, Dr Stallman created the GNU General Public License (GPL) which has been used for many other components in Debian GNU/Linux, including the Linux kernel itself.

1991: Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds began creating the Linux kernel.

The Linux kernel has been used to create complete operating systems, including both Debian and Red Hat.

1993: Ian Murdock

Ian Murdock announces the beginning of Debian while undertaking his undergraduate studies. The name is based on the name of his then girlfriend, Debra and his own name: Deb + Ian = Debian.

November 1994: GNU Project sponsors Debian

The GNU Project of Dr Stallman and the FSF sponsors Debian for one year. Debian may not exist in its current form if it hadn't had this opportunity.

1997: the NASA promise

Ringleaders have made many promises to try and get unpaid volunteers to spend time and money on building Debian. In 1997 they promised to put our software in space.

Do you want to see your software fly on the Space Shuttle?

1998: Underage labour, the US Navy and disappearing developers

In 1998 there was controversy around the activities of a teenage intern from the US Navy, Shaya Potter. Potter was a child prodigy.

Some people put this down to his age but I feel that is very short sighted. This is more about the perils of remote working: a teenager doing unpaid work in front of his computer screen has no real-life contact with leaders or role models. In such circumstances, it wasn't hard for him to go astray and start shifting around the WaReZ. People were happy to exploit his work but did nothing to help him develop as a person.

2001: death of Chris Rutter

Chris Rutter was an unpaid volunteer doing a lot of great work for the Arm & Debian porting. Significantly, he had started doing this work as a high school student and he died shortly after entering Cambridge university. Softbank acquired Arm Ltd for £24 billion in 2016 which resulted in significant payments to some shareholding employees while volunteers received nothing.

March 2004: Mark Shuttleworth forms Canonical Ltd, Ubuntu

There is a blog post by Scott James Remnant about the early days of Ubuntu poaching volunteers and dividing the Debian community.

May 2004: death of Manuel Estrada Sainz and Andres Garcia

They spent three days, Thursday to Saturday, at a conference in Valencia, followed by Sunday with another Debian Developer before attempting a 666km drive home to Sevilla overnight. They almost made it, the fatal accident occurred just minutes from their destination.

Was the lack of rest in their schedule a factor in their deaths? Similar to Chris Rutter and Thiemo Seufer car accidents.

July 2005: death of Jens Schmalzing (jensen)

At the end of July 2005, we heard about the death of Jens Schmalzing. He fell from the rooftop of his workplace in Germany, where there is no public inquiry into such deaths.

May 2006: physically violent expulsion of leadership candidate Ted Walther

Ted Walther nominated for leadership elections in 2005 and 2006. He raised some serious topics that were too challenging for the groupthink brigade.

Instead of discussing the issues, they attacked the person, spreading rumors that his latina date at the DebConf dinner was a prostitute.

November 2006: Sven Luther resigns

People have been spreading rumors that Sven Luther was expelled. In reality, he resigned:

Subject: PLEASE HELP ...

This is, probably the last, of my desesperate calls for help.

I will probably be leaving debian fully, because frankly, it is not possible for me to continue working on debian.

March 2007: more resignations

These resignation comments were published on debian-private.

From Jérôme Marant:

I must confess the load flamewars over the past months, along with the growing practice of public humiliation, personal attacks and hate campaigns made my last bits of motivation disappear entirely. Debian is no longer fun to me and I’m not interested in doing volunteer work in such a context one usually wouldn’t be able to avoid in real life.

and from Glenn McGrath:

Due to mostly social and some technical aspects of debian i have lost my motivation to contribute directly to debian.

May 2007: first resignation of Frans Pop

Pop's second resignation would be his suicide in 2010.

December 2008: death of Thiemo Seufer, Christmas Day working

Seufer was doing Debian work on Christmas Day (which is not legal in Germany) and died that night in a car accident.

June 2009: Enrico Zini calls for public shaming

As part of the election process, Zini asks each candidate:

Please write a list of 5 Debian Developers you would like to kick out of the project.

This really captures the truth about Debian culture.

August 2010: Frans Pop, the Debian Day Volunteer Suicide

Frans Pop chose to resign the night before the Debian Day anniversary. In hindsight, we can see that his resignation email was a suicide note.

Many blogs have appeared about the suicide. Some of the key messages are posted on Debian.Day.

March 2013: shaming, secret expulsion and blackmail of Daniel Baumann begins

Daniel Baumann is secretly expelled.

He is told to continue working as an apprentice under the threat that if he disobeys, the cabal overlords will publicize the expulsion.

as pointed out the last time (when I was not allowed to question a judgment call of a package rejected from NEW based on it’s allegedly too generic name (system-config vs. the now temporary name live-debconfig) and being accused of ’doesn’t respect delegates decision’ and threatened with expulsion just because I dared to think outloud about challenging a ftp-master NEW-queue decision), I find it very disturbing that being the accused, I’m (apparently still) not allowed to know who accused me and of what exactely (rather than a ’summary’).

April 2013: more resignations

Quoting John Hasler:

I’ve resigned. Your resignation procedure says I must announce that fact to this list. I’ve sent the requisite message to keyring@rt.debian.org and orphaned my packages. Please notify me if there is anything I’ve missed. Otherwise please do not respond.

December 2013: Meike Reichle resigns

Reichle explains she met her husband through Debian. Sadly, this is part of a pattern.

April 2014: Dr Jacob Appelbaum warns about infiltration of Debian

From debian-private:

Generally speaking there is ample evidence of something much worse. It is extremely important for everyone on this list who is not a US citizen to understand that they’re likely individually a target if they have access to interesting resources, if they are working on usable cryptography or performing cutting edge security research. There are literally dozens of other reasons for this kind of targeting - if you maintain an interesting package, you may be the weakest link in the chain and thus, you will be targeted for whatever benefit is gained by compromising you or your systems.

August 2014: Wesley J. Landaker resigns from Debian

From debian-private:

Anyway, times, beliefs, and policies have changed, and the easiest path for me right now is just to retire rather than waste precious time fighting for special exemptions or being forcefully kicked out. I always thought I’d be a Debian Developer until the day I died, but I’d rather retire than be run out of town. ;)

August 2014: Linus Torvalds is banned from DebConf

Debian would not exist without Linus.

You can't make this up.

Linus Torvalds, Daniel Pocock, Debian, DebConf

November 2014: Remco van de Meent resigns

I enjoyed it back then, but now I like to formally retire.

November 2014: Richard Hartmann describes Debian culture

From debian-private:

words can hardly express how exhausted and chaffed I feel from the constant fighting and in-fighting. I feel confused and scared that what I always saw as the foundation of Debian, it’s social fabric, is not only tearing at the ends but that some rips are making it into the center, the very core.

November 2014: Arno Töll calls out debian-private

by posting another message on debian-private:

by looking into my mailbox I seriously wonder what the point of debian-private is supposed to be. None of it’s (original) intentions seem to apply to what’s currently discussed on this list. Therefore, I seriously wonder, what/how much benefit it gives us as I fail to see why we would need a dedicated place to discuss the evilness involving systemd, or insult and offend each other and then discuss how much insulting those statements were, or whatever else you feel, is currently needed to be discussed on a private mailing list.

February 2015: Bartosz Fenski resigns because of Women-only MiniDebConf

There is a perception that people are using the genuine problem of diversity as an excuse to give free trips and speaking opportunities to existing girlfriends who are part of the clique.

From debian-private:

I wasn’t too active recently but with the latest activity of our leader and official support for women-mini-debconf I want to retire from the project. I don’t want to be part of this anymore. Please hereby approve my retirenment statement. See you in project where everyone will be welcome. Not only women.

October 2015: Paul Tagliamonte joins the White House

Tagliamonte is employed in the United States Digital Service.

November 2015: Joachim Breitner (nomeata) expresses concern about Daniel Baumann's welfare

From debian-private:

There are a few people out there (and maybe in here as well) who see (parts of) this story and draw conclusions about how Debian treats contributors. Conclusions that I hope are in general false, and conclusions that I’d not like to pervade our image.

At this point in time, Baumann was still being controlled as a slave, with the threat that they would publicly disclose his expulsion if he didn't obey them.

December 2015: suicide of Ian Murdock

Debian founder Ian Murdock is humiliated by a neighbor and the police. He commits suicide.

Coroner report.

June 2016: people create false accusations against Dr Jacob Appelbaum

Dr Appelbaum is highly respected expert on information security.

Many of the misfits were jealous about Appelbaum's appearance in media interviews and they wanted to tear him down so they created false accusations of rape and abuse.

Paul Tagliamonte joins the attack during White House working hours.

No victims ever came forward but the damage was done by rampant gossip.

October 2016: Nicholas Dandrimont proposes girlfriend for Outreachy internship

Dandrimont asks another mentor, Daniel Pocock, to consider Dandrimont's girlfriend, Pauline Pommeret.

Pommeret withdrew her application four days later.

April 2017: Volunteers elect Daniel Pocock as FSFE Fellowship Representative

The volunteers elected Daniel Pocock as their representative.

The knives came out and people have been out to get Mr Pocock ever since.

September 2017: Albanian Fedora ambassador resigns, recruited by Ubuntu

Elio Qoshi resigns as Fedora Ambassador around the time people started learning about his underage girlfriend.

Qoshi subsequently appears as an Ubuntu employee.

Random accusations of abuse are spread about other mentors who had no involvement at all.

The Elio Qoshi affair appears to be the only confirmed case of abuse in the open source world.

March 2018: women thank Daniel Pocock for helping victims

One of the Albanian women thanks Daniel Pocock for helping victims of harassment and abuse.

June 2018: Laura Arjona Reina threatens an Outreachy intern

Arjona sent secret threats to Renata D'Avila, the last woman mentored by Mr Pocock. Mr Pocock does not volunteer to mentor again.

August 2018: Daniel Pocock completely resigns from mentoring

Mr Pocock wrote his intention to resign here.

September 2018: Erico Zini obfuscates work of Daniel Pocock

In the manner of plagiarism, Enrico Zini begins obfuscating Mr Pocock's status as an author of Debian.

This is a continuation of the FSFE dramas.

December 2018: blackmail of Dr Norbert Preining begins at Christmas

It is a time when most non-profit organizations are showing gratitude to their volunteers and giving people the time and space to rest with their families.

On Christmas Day, Martin Krafft reveals that he is another victim:

I know that there’s been at least another case, in which DAM and AH have acted outside their mandate, threatening with project expulsion, and choosing very selectively with whom they communicate. I know, because I was being targeted. Neither DAM nor AH (the same people still active today) made a single attempt to hear me. None of my e-mails to either DAM or AH were ever answered. Instead, DAM ruled a verdict, and influenced other people to the point that “because DAM ruled” was given as a reason for other measures. This was an unconstitutional abuse of DAM’s powers, and in the case of AH, the whole mess also bordered on libel. Among others, the current DPL Chris Lamb promised a review in due time, but nothing ever happened.

Debian leader Chris Lamb announces a semi-clandestine payment from Google, rumored to be $300,000. It smells like Debian has simply become an extension of Google.

January 2019: Scott Kitterman writes about censorship regime

If censorship isn’t the right word (and at best, it’s not ideal), what’s the right word for the chilling effect on willingness to speak in public due to the risk of being ejected from an organization like Debian? Perhaps if we can get past ”it’s not censorship” and say what it is, then we can make some progress. ... I’m talking about declining to speak based on concern about disproportionate reaction from our leadership/delegates for doing so (I’m also not arguing that did or didn’t happen in any recent situation - I am trying to see if there is some consensus to be found on at least how to talk about it).

January 2019: death of Lucy Wayland

This tragedy was predicted and avoidable.

July 2019: DebConf19 in Brazil, trafficking of Albanian women

The former Debian leader Chris Lamb had a number of Albanian women at his table for the DebConf19 dinner.

To avoid questions about the women, Lamb started rumors about Daniel Pocock mentoring a girlfriend. The rumors about Pocock backfired when people discovered Mr Pocock's intern actually got married in the middle of her internship.

December 2019: first leaks of debian-private appear

After all the deaths and conflict, people start leaking emails from the debian-private gossip network.

Over 15,000 debian-private emails have subsequently appeared on IPFS. People can now browse the early history of Software in the Public Interest, the Open Source Initiative, the relationships with Debian and the Debian Social Contract.

January 2021: second expulsion of Dr Norbert Preining

Dr Preining had spoken up for the civil rights of other volunteers. The cabal overlords got mad and shot him down without any discussion.

March 2021: online lynching of Dr Richard Stallman begins

Volunteers are asked to vote about publishing a defamation of Dr Richard Stallman.

The vote failed but a lot of time was wasted by the cabal overlords.

2022: debian.community dispute and mass resignations

Debian leader Jonathan Carter gives a whole lot of money to lawyers to censor the former debian.community web site.

The Debian Social Contract, point 3, tells us We will not hide problems but Carter become obsessed with hiding the problems disclosed by debian.community bloggers.

Approximately 30 volunteers resigned in the weeks after legal action commenced.

People started publishing evidence about the previously hidden Frans Pop Debian Day suicide. It looks like this triggered the resignation of Mark Shuttleworth himself.

September 2023: death of Abraham Raji at DebConf23, India

Abraham disappeared during the kayak excursion. The official search was called off and the body was found by local residents who persisted in the search after everybody else left. Is Debian really a family?

Debian, FSFE, backstabbing

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