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I No Longer Support FSFE

This post replaced a technical post that is now scheduled for some time in January, but for once, breaking news took precedence, and given my past writing on the topic, I thought I should state this explicitly as soon as possible.

You may remember that I have, many times, singled out FSFE (Free Software Foundation Europe) from FSF (Free Software Foundation — the original one). They (used to) have a positive attitude to Free Software, contrasting the “attack ads” strategy of their USA-based peers, and that alone set them aside in my views. And despite me having had doubts at times, I thought that active, positive engagement such as Public Money, Public Code, and REUSE were worth ignoring other “side projects” that I would disagree with, when it comes to Cloud solutions.

Well, today something entirely different (and yet something that didn’t surprise me) came to light:

Edit: you can also read the long form text, which is definitely easier to read through than the images.

I have no reason to disbelief this summary. I never interacted with Matthias face to face – though we have exchanged polite email before – so I cannot reconcile this with his character, but a significant bias against foreigners in the FSFE? Yeah I don’t need to stretch my mind to accept that.

Indeed I have twice raised my concerns with FSFE about how much focus was given to German issues overall, compared to more Free Sofware related issues. Both times I ended up not publicly ranting about this because of the Public Money, Public Code project (once because I was told it was coming, and the second time because it actually was announced), despite fairly unconvincing arguments that felt like “Well, it’s not my fault that it’s mostly Germans who get involved.”

While I would have loved to be involved more myself, there were problems with that. The first being that, since my previous employer was nearly directly targeted by one of their campaigns, it would be a difficult conflict to solve. The other being that, in an all too common play in Free Software community, there’s been a purity test on how to engage — in-person meetings are obviously not the easiest to attend, and with the strict constraints of privacy, finding a proper medium for discussion is always hard.

This is not to move the attention over from gama’s story — but to show that the attitude of “Yeah, there’s a problem, but can’t really fix it, can we?” in that story is not a surprise to me, and I can totally accept it.

And given the way their peer organizations in the USA and Latin America have been behaving over the past few years, particularly in defending Stallman’s behaviour as if he was a religious leader, and the still strong connections between them, I guess it’s time I publicly distance myself from FSFE – just as much as I did over the years with FSF — which fits with having been called an “enemy of Free Software” before.

I guess this is yet another community I don’t belong to, being a fan of nuance, and seeing that there’s a lot of good coming out of things that are not perfect. On both sides.

Comments 8
    1. I’m happy to listen to both sides. I’m also at liberty to elaborate on why I don’t have trouble believing one side versus the other when it comes to a “one says, the other says”. Which I did.

    2. It is important, but this statement does not really contribute anything. In short it’s this:
      – No wrongdoing could be proven in court
      – No further comment
      – We value women and have CoC

      Information that was not given is the following:
      – None of the allegations where factually disputed (2 women were fired; they were paid less; employee was visited at home while on sick leave and called by phone repeatedly)
      – Was there any investigation whether the CoC was violated?
      – Was there any independent investigation in the accusations?
      – Are there any processes in place that would allow to hold leaders accountable if there’s ethical wrongdoing with respect to employment?

  1. What’s next, are you going to distance yourself from Open Source and from Freedom #0 of the free-software definition?

    I’ve long been a fan of restrictions on fields of use; or failing that, their nearest neighbor the Affero-GPL, or the EU Public Licence over here; or MongoDB’s Server-Side Licence if you really want to make enemies at multinational megacorps.

    You can probably guess what led me down this particular train of thought 🙂 But half-seriously, the first step down that road is to abandon the religiosity of Freedom #0, for which distancing from the FSF* would’ve been a blocker.

    1. That would be a “slippery slope” fallacy, as a friend would state.

      Seriously, I take one phrase of advice from a person who, overall, fell victim to it: «worship ideals, not people.» Distancing oneself from FSF(|E|LA) does not mean distancing oneself from the ideal of Free Software. But at the same time, I have always put the user in front of Freedom #0 — a perfectly Free project that does not do what the user needs is just a form of art, not useful engineering.

      But again, there’s a giant chasm between that and accepting restrictions on fields of use as a blanket statement. See, e.g. for some of my thoughts on the problem of dualities of tools, and my struggle to come up with an “unified theory” to solve the issue with licensing.

      1. Even at best, stuff like MongoDB’s SSL only blocks the hyperscalers from offering it as a service (without contributing back all the billing/automation/etc that makes it a SaaS). I don’t know whether licensing is capable of fully restricting uses I don’t want but can’t foresee.

        It’s an effective first step though, which is why I alluded to the slippery slope: I don’t know of another path for this objective.

  2. Person loses a trial in courts and appeals to public opinion. Bystanders’ feelings are in their favour, on Twitter.

    I’ll pass.

  3. I can’t help feeling like this isn’t that different from dismal way that Dr Gebru was treated. “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark” [really everywhere] and it’s only just starting to come to the surface.

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