Bonum Certa Men Certa

When You Say the Truth They Call You “Toxic” (Inconvenient to Big Corporations/Sponsors?)

Gas mask: They called me 'toxic' but I was being sincere and polite

Summary: We hereby reproduce a couple of publicly-accessible E-mail messages; those shed light on the censorious atmosphere which can tarnish Free software projects and discourage productive contributors

Censorship in Debian

Hi all,

I was recently at the UN forum on business and human rights, listening to an Iranian dissident talk[1] about the extremes that his country goes to in censoring and silencing people who don't agree with their rulers.  I would encourage people to watch the video.

At that very same moment, the anti-harassment team were censoring[2] a Debian Developer's blog from Planet Debian.  Chilling.

I actually looked at Planet shortly after attending that panel discussion and immediately noticed that Norbert Preining[3] had been censored.  Disappearances of Khashoggi[4] and Kamphuis[5] came to mind.

At that moment, being surrounded by experts on human rights and freedom of _expression_ who may have far more experience than most of us in Debian, I did a quick survey.  I couldn't find one person who supported the actions of the censors.

Some of Norbert's blogs make people think, but they appear to be overwhelmingly motivated by legitimate issues and his recent blog thanking[6] Lars[7] appeared to end in an upbeat and sincere manner.  Whether I agree with either of them or not, I'd like to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank both Lars and Norbert for their contributions as fellow Debian Developers and fellow bloggers.

Norbert had also made political statements[8] concerning the way codes of conduct are used in our communities.  People who speak up like this are frequent targets for political plots, protecting these people is imperative.

Looking at Debian's code of conduct[9], there is no compelling violation of the code in Norbert's writing.  Indeed, the only violation of the code of conduct may be the act of censorship itself: the very first point tells us "inevitably there will be people with whom you may disagree, or find it difficult to cooperate. Accept that, but even so, remain respectful."

Even without contemplating the code of conduct, censorship has a sinister effect on discussion.  People notice when somebody disappears and they become hesitant to speak about problems, whether they are technical issues or social issues.  I feel compelled to speak up but as I write this, I contemplate the risk that some people will try the same tactics as the Iranians, censoring me, threatening me or dragging my name through the mud.  If they try that, they may give each other a pat on the back but they don't fool our community at large.

Nonetheless, article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[10] clearly states that no institution should act in any way to destroy the rights enshrined in the UDHR.  The definition of an "institution" there clearly applies to a group with the influence of Debian, it is not only for states and courts.

Wake up, people.  If we are repressing members of our own organization like this, we haven't got a hope in hell of achieving our mission[11] for society at large.

The UN calls on us to "stand up 4 human rights" on this 70th anniversary of that declaration.  You can do that now by standing up for Norbert.  It takes minutes for anybody, Developer or not, to submit a merge request in Salsa[12] to uncomment his blog.  You can also email the Debian Project Leader,

If you know people in other organizations concerned with human rights, discuss Norbert's case with them and get their opinion, just as I did.

You can't pick and choose human rights, having some freedoms and not others, the declaration even implies this too.  Anybody who tries to do that is on a very slippery slope indeed.

In my role as a representative in another organization and in my extensive work with Debian, various people have approached me about incidents of censorship and overbearing efforts to control participation in the free software community.  It is far more widespread than many people realize.  It only happens because people fail to speak up.  For example, an FSFE volunteer was censored at 34C3 after distributing leaflets questioning Google's funding to FSFE.  There is increasing fear that "anti-harassment" efforts are being used as cover for political agendas, they are operating in a bubble and diverging significantly from what would be acceptable in any other organization or field of endeavour.  They post big newsletters to debian-devel-announce boasting about their work but many people feel those reports reek of gloating and one-upmanship.

On a technical level, we may want to consider whether Planet is fit for purpose: if we want to showcase best practice in creating a platform where freedom of _expression_ can thrive and remain immune to abuses, should we simply make more efforts to migrate to a decentralized tool, eliminating the risk that any subgroup or faction within Debian will be able to carry on like that now or in future?

As somebody more famous once said, "I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It".  I welcome responses to this topic whether you share my concerns or not but if nobody cares about this stuff, please tell me, so I can stop contributing to Debian and go elsewhere.




Re: Censorship in Debian

Hi everyone,

(please Cc me, I am not subscribed to d-p)

first of all thanks to Daniel for bringing this up and standing up for me, this is very much appreciated.

For those not aware of the issue, here is *my* view onto the events. AH and DAM can answer and provide their own interpretation. I will try to stay as objective as it is possible for me.

2018/09/21 I published the post "Sharp did it again" [1] using "it" as pronoun -same day- Chris Lamb disabled my blog on Planet based on "it" 2018/09/22 based on suggestions and explanations from others but Lamb I update the blog to use "they" 2018/09/24 Chris Lamb re-enables my blog on Planet 2018/11/26 I published the post "On Lars Wirzenius, Fun, and Debian" [2] 2018/11/27 Laura Arjona Reina disables my blog on Planet 2018/11/28 I respond to Laura Arjona Reina's email asking for clarification due to the explanation being unclear to me (see attached email 1) 2018/12/04 Due to absence of any answer at all, I enable my blog on Planet, but remove the post about Lars Wirzenius from the respective RSS feed 2018/12/17 The DAM sends me an email about demotion to Debian Maintainer based on a set of emails mostly from 2012-2014 during the discussions on systemd and coc: 2012: 1 email 2013: 7 emails 2014: 5 emails 2015: 1 email 2016: 0 emails 2017: 2 emails 2018: 2 emails some of these emails are actually not from me, but these are the emails used as argumentation (see attached email 2)

Points I consider disturbing: * AH never answered my questions, and above that I assume that the email the called out in their recent "bit from the anti harassement team" about being "a harassment of the team" is my email. I ask everyone to judge by himself whether my email as attached is to be considered harassment. * The demotion to Debian Maintainer is - as far as I read the consitution [3], the delegation of DAM [4], and the DAM Wiki page about their rights and powers [5], not legit since besides expulsion there is not procedure laid out for demotion, but I refrained from raising this for the sake of peace.

There are more disturbing things going on where I suspect that members of Debian have taken unduly influence on procedures concerning me, but since I don't have proofs I cannot raise them here.

Coming back to the argumentation of DAM, I agree that back in 2012-2014 I have written a few strong emails during the systemd and coc discussion. Not to defense myself, but I have the feeling that I was not the only one. Furthermore, most of the emails cited by DAM clearly predate the CoC, and the emails after installment of the CoC are, in my opinion just simply frank and staight.

Anyway, this is the status. I invite everyone to form his/her own opinion. As I posted on the Debian TeX ML, I will not be doing an awful lot of work for Debian due to this demotion. I still think that Debian is the best Linux distribution - but *only* due to the excellent work of its developers.



[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] -- PREINING Norbert Accelia Inc. + JAIST + TeX Live + Debian Developer GPG: 0x860CDC13 fp: F7D8 A928 26E3 16A1 9FA0 ACF0 6CAC A448 860C DC13
--- Begin Message ---
Dear Laura,

thanks for your email.

To make things clear from the start: Unless explicitely stated below, I do not consider this email communication private and will publicize it if need arises. Thanks for your understanding.

Now to the matter at hand. I am a bit surprised that without even one word of notice you have disabled by blog on Planet Debian. Furthermore, I consider the explanation of your verdict unclear and bare of any argumentation, and thus ask you to answer the following questions:

Question 1: persistent pattern of disrespectful communication -------------------------------------------------------------

You state that ... evaluate your long term behaviour, ... ... persistent pattern of disrespectful communication towards other members of the community. without providing any evidence. I have been contacted once by Chris Lamb (in Cc in case you want to verify my statements) about my blog Sharp did it again [1] where I used the incorrect pronoun. Within 24h I have updated the blog original email by Chris: Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:20:22 +0100 mail about update by me: Sat, 22 Sep 2018 05:09:42 +0900 second update by me: Sat, 22 Sep 2018 08:29:47 +0900 Besides this, please point me to other instances of disrespectful communication towards other members (besides, Sharp is not a member of Debian).

I have published about 400 or more posts on my site. Please explain me what your definition is of persistent pattern even if you take the above one into account, and how your definition applies to me.

Question 2: tone that is inappropriate for Planet Debian -------------------------------------------------------- My post consists mostly of quotes from blogs aggregated on Debian Planet. Where in specific is the "inappropriate tone"?

Furthermore, this post is modeled after Lars Wirzenius original post On Norbert Preining, Sarah Sharp, and Debian [2] Please explain why his post is not considered "inappropriate" and he has not been banished from Debian Planet!

Question 3: not to harm ----------------------- I clearly stated my gratitude for his long work for Debian, despite our obvious differences in opinions. I honor his work, even if I disagree with some things Lars has proposed and forwarded within Debian. Please explain why you feel like this post is harming, in particular who, how, and why?

References [1] [2]

On Tue, 27 Nov 2018, Laura Arjona Reina wrote: > Hello Norbert, > > I'm writing to you on behalf of the Debian anti-harassment team. > We had been asked to evaluate your long term behaviour, > after one high-visibility instance of disrespect on Planet Debian. > > We notice that there is a persistent pattern of disrespectful communication > towards other members of the community. > > In addition to this, we believe the recently published post > > has a tone that is inappropriate for Planet Debian. > > Maybe it's written with no intention to do harm, but it seems it's not written > to *not do harm* either. The result is several people feeling uncomfortable > and undermining of efforts to improve the health of the community. > > Therefore, regardless of other actions that may be taken, I have removed > your blog from Planet Debian. > > Regards, > Laura Arjona Reina >

-- PREINING Norbert Accelia Inc. + JAIST + TeX Live + Debian Developer GPG: 0x860CDC13 fp: F7D8 A928 26E3 16A1 9FA0 ACF0 6CAC A448 860C DC13

--- End Message ---
--- Begin Message ---

recently we got contacted with complaints about your attitude and behaviour in Debian. Looking deeper into this, it appears to be a long history and our impression is that you seem to ignore the issues raised while attacking the people who raise them.

This appears on both, planet and mailing lists, with some posts calling[1] you[2] out, and you being temporarily[3] removed from planet.

Not that other[4] posts[5] from you seem to be respectful or constructive, nor does it appear to be the[6] case[7] with[8] loads[9] of[10] mailing[11] list[12] posts[13]. This is damaging the working environment in the project, with people needing to step[14] in[15] to restore a decent working environmet after one of your interventions.

These issues have[16] been[17] raised[18] to you[19] several[20] times[21] over[22] the years, and you have normally responded by denying the issues and attacking the people who tried to raise them. See for example[23].

On nov 27, the antiharassment team removed your blog post from Planet again, because of yet another reiteration of these problems. Your response, even though it was framed like asking questions, again it read as an accusation to the people, a delegated team in this case, who, once again, called you out.

On dec 4, you have unilaterally readded yourself to Planet Debian.

This has gone on for long enough. We do not believe that you currently have any intention of being a constructive member of Debian, and we see little hope for improvement as it is.

Therefore, we are revoking your status as a Debian Developer with immediate effect. You remain a Debian Maintainer for a minimum of 6 months, after which you can apply for getting your Debian Developer status back.

All packages in which you are currently listed as maintainer or uploader will be added to your Debian Maintainer whitelist as soon as possible.

Your blog has been removed again from Planet Debian, and will remain so for 3 months. After 3 months you can ask any DD or the Planet admins to readd your feed.

After a minimum of 6 months you can apply to get your Debian Developer status back by mailing

We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable).

The Debian Account Managers,

Enrico Zini Joerg Jaspert Jonathan Wiltshire

Footnotes: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23]

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: PGP signature

--- End Message ---

Come on, kids; We're going to a community that respects free speech as much as it respects free software

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