Bonum Certa Men Certa

Bribing Free Software Institutions: A Primer

Blood-sucking sponsors rarely do any good to public interest groups

Flat mosquito



Summary: The corrupting influence of money (changing priorities inside public interest groups) cannot be discounted and ignored; as it turns out, some people are still studying what inside the FSF led to the expulsion (forced resignation) of its very own founder, who in effect lost his voice over some bogus 'scandal' one year ago

WE may not be among the most 'mainstream' of sites (a rather meaningless criterion in its own right). But at least we can say that: 1) we never ever compromised a source; 2) we never took corporate money; 3) we have a fantastic track record of accuracy (almost never had to amend/correct an article). We focus on issues we understand very well, e.g. EPO affairs, and we have clear goals. We revise the goals if the goalposts move (e.g. software patents in Europe being spun as "Hey Hi" for buzzwords' sake) and we never try to appease powerful corporations. If they're happy with what we write, then we might in fact be on the wrong route.



"...we never try to appease powerful corporations. If they're happy with what we write, then we might in fact be on the wrong route."The battle for credibility isn't easy. It took years for Richard Stallman to earn respect, attract many developers (to join the GNU Project), and then 'give birth' to his second 'baby', the FSF. His first-born (GNU) is still under his control, officially at least but maybe not technically (some GNU developers keep trying to silence and marginalise him).

We recently became aware of a discussion about the FSF's money supply. Redacted are all the names of those involved, as it does not really seem to matter who said what. It's the substance that matters. We only care about the underlying facts.

"I know nothing about bribery within the FSF," said one person. That basically alludes to allegations of corporate money ("sponsorship") changing priorities at the FSF.

"We recently became aware of a discussion about the FSF's money supply.""Your concept of bribery is probably a bit narrow," said the response. "This is not an insult, your concept of bribery is probably more or less what/how most people think. First of all, it probably doesn't consider favors as bribery. Nobody who talks about bribery really cares about the money itself, they care about the effects of bribery. If Microsoft accidentally dropped a million on the sidewalk, and the FSF found it and couldn't find anybody to claim it, and they were legally allowed to keep it -- and nothing changed, nobody would care. I wouldn't."

Please note that nobody is claiming that Microsoft gave money to the FSF. To the FSFE, however, Microsoft did give money and the FSFE spoke about that in public. Remember that FSFE is not FSF; they're not connected, albeit the names are similar.

"If company A pays organization B and organization B continues to bend further and further towards the well-established goals of company A and farther from the goals of organization B, that's the problem," said the person. "So the questions that lead people to pursue these concerns are: 1. Has the organization changed? 2. Has it changed in a way that does harm to the organization? 3. Does this harm also benefit any corporations/parties who stand against the organization? 4. Have those corporations/parties also given money to the organization? BONUS: 5. Does the corporation/party have a well-established history of making 1-4 happen via bribes?"

"Please note that nobody is claiming that Microsoft gave money to the FSF."Remember that this is a discussion about the FSF itself. There's a growing concern that a bunch of large donations have, in recent years, engineered the present outcome.

"It's sort of like looking at a smoking gun," said the person, along with "a body on the ground, and the person holding the gun while it still points at the body -- and trying to figure out if the person with the gun shot the person on the ground. Maybe it's a wild coincidence, but it makes a lot of sense to ask. This is a vast oversimplification, not only of the issues and concerns, but of the things we already know. But we have more than enough reason to ask. As to what to look for, we have the stuff that is already public."

Remember when the FSF received a very large and anonymous donation? "I've had suspicions as to the origin and the motives behind the huge donations a couple of years ago," said a person close to Richard Stallman (RMS), "but RMS assures me there's nothing fishy about them."

"Remember when the FSF received a very large and anonymous donation?"This is interesting. People who follow the FSF closely will know what donation (or donations) this is about. "Which means that someone assured him," said the reply to that. "It's a fallacy to assume he can't be manipulated. He's neither as smart or as dumb as he looks -- some people think he's a genius and they're right. Some people think he's an idiot and they're wrong. But that doesn't mean he can't be manipulated -- I don't think he could be corrupted, only fooled. If you want to understand what happened inside the organization, you will learn more looking at things that happened outside it (which are similar). That's not the only way, it's the easy way."

"All I know about corporate patrons is what's on the public web pages," said the person close to Richard Stallman.

At the moment is looks like this:

FSF



Notice that very large corporations are no longer listed, unlike previous years. Maybe the FSF no longer accepts their money or maybe they no longer wish to sponsor the FSF.

"That may be all that is necessary," said the sceptic about the money's source, as "Marcia Wilbur's infographic is relevant. It doesn't reveal much, as much as it summarizes and illustrates what we know."

Here's her infographic, which we reproduced here last month:

Where's My Refund?!



"My advice," said the sceptic, or "the best I can possibly give you -- is to pay more attention to what's happening in the world of free software and even "open source". Watching open source is like watching piranhas or lions attacking. It's not pretty, but you learn something. To be specific, you learn what sorts of tactics they're leaning on "right now"."

"Next week marks exactly one year since the Seattle Police Department (initially King County Sheriff’s Office) was asked for records on the arrest at Bill Gates' home (for pedophilia). That interestingly enough coincided (one day apart) with the media's attack on RMS."It then goes on a bit of a tangent: "On that note, in 2020 a lot of orgs seem to have pulled back. I doubt it's just because of pressure from activists, but it's possible. I think it's got more to do with the pattern of troop withdrawal in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. That pattern happens over and over again -- because of pressure from peace activists? No, it usually happens for P.R. and because the troops (resources) have done what they came to do, and now it's time to move to other things. So the best time to "watch" the money is from 2017-2019. Not that you should ignore the present, just that the present is less likely to yield the clues you're looking for."

There's a lot more in there. But the bottom line is, some people inside the FSF are eager to better understand the forces leveraged against software freedom and the role money may have played in that. No doubt, in our mind at least, what happened a year ago to RMS was part of a broader strategy which continues to this day. Owing to more and more leaks that we receive we're able to piece together pertinent bits that are factual, drawing conclusions and making comparisons that are defensible. Some people still say that the events of September 2019 were "free software 9/11". So in a sense we're now in the first anniversary of those events. Next week marks exactly one year since the Seattle Police Department (initially King County Sheriff’s Office) was asked for records on the arrest at Bill Gates' home (for pedophilia). That interestingly enough coincided (one day apart) with the media's attack on RMS. In other words, one day after Gates' MIT scandal (bribes trafficked via Epstein) led to demand for police records the media started attacking RMS, twisting his words to manufacture a false 'pedophilia' scandal at MIT (diverting the heat to RMS).

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