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submitted 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago) by [email protected] to c/freesoftware

I've been thinking about this for a while now.

Richard Stallman has been practically synonymous with Free Software since its inception. And there are good reasons why. It was his idea, and it was his passion that made the movement what it is today.

I deeply believe in the mission of the Free Software movement. But more and more, it seems that in order to survive, the Free Software movement may need to distance itself from him.

Richard Stallman has said some really disturbingly reprehensible things on multiple occasions (one and two). (He has said he's changed these opinions, but it seems to me the damage is done.)

He's asked that people blame him and not the FSF for these statements, but it seems naive to me to expect that to be enough not to tarnish the FSF's reputation in the eyes of most people.

And Richard Stallman isn't the only problematic figure associated with the Free Software movement.. Eben Moglen (founder, Direct-Council, and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center which is closely associated with the FSF) has been accused of much abusive and anti-LGBTQIA+ behavior over which the Free Software Foundation Europe and Software Freedom Concervancy have cut ties with the SFLC and Moglen (one and two).

Even aside from the public image problems, it seems like the FSF and SFLC have been holding back the Free Software movement strategically. Eben Moglan has long been adamant that the GPL shouldn't be interpreted as a contract -- only as a copyright license. What the SFC is doing now with the Visio lawsuit is only possible because the SFC had the courage to abandon that theory.

I sense there's a rift in the Free Software movement. Especially given that the SFC and FSF Europe explicitly cutting ties with the SFLC and Moglen. And individual supporters of Free Software are going to have to decide which parties in this split are going to speak for and champion the cause of the community as a whole.

I imagine it's pretty clear by this point that I favor the SFC in this split. I like what I've seen from the SFC in general. Not just the Visio lawsuit. But also the things I've heard said by SFC folks.

If the Free Software movement needs a single personality to be its face moving forward, I'd love for that face to be Bradley M. Kuhn, executive director of the SFC. He seems to have all of Stallman's and Moglen's assets (passion, dedication, an unwillingness to bend, and experience and knowledge of the legal aspects of Free Software enforcement) perhaps even more so than Stallman and Moglen do. And Kuhn excels in all the areas where Stallman and Moglen perhaps don't so much (social consciousness, likeability, strategy.) I can't say enough good things about Kuhn, really. (And his Wikipedia page doesn't even have a "controversies" section.) (Also, please tell me there aren't any skeletons in his closet.)

Even if the community does come to a consensus that the movement should distance itself from Stallman and Moglen, it'll be difficult to achieve such a change in public perception and if it's achieved, it may come at a cost. After all, Stallman is the first person everybody pictures when the FSF is mentioned. And acknowledging the problems with the Free Software movement's "old brass" may damage the reputation of Free Software as a whole among those who might not differentiate between the parties in this split. But I feel it may be necessary for the future of the Free Software movement.

That's my take, anyway. I'll hop down off of my soap box, now. But I wanted to bring this up, hopefully let some folks whose ideals align with those of the Free Software movement about all this if they weren't already aware, and maybe see what folks in general think about the future of the Free Software movement.

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[-] possiblylinux127 6 points 5 months ago

The problem with the fsf is way deeper than Stallman. I think Stallman can some good qualities but but him and the FSF need some new ways of thinking.

For instance, why is this community modded by me? You would of though that they would of monitored the state of Reddit and jumped on board Lemmy. Its things like these that show that the fsf is blind.

Another complaint I have is that they feel that you either use 100% proprietary software or 100% free software. The problem with this way of thinking is that it skips over trying to get ordinary people to make small changes. Its not practical to change in one day or one month for that matter. We need slow change by promoting privacy and software freedom though convenience.

I think the free software ecosystem is doing well but it has nothing to do with the FSF.

[-] Adanisi 3 points 5 months ago

Promoting gradual change is something the FSF is now doing, thankfully.

It's called the "freedom ladder" iirc it's still in progress.

[-] possiblylinux127 3 points 5 months ago

A little off topic but if you or someone you know at the fsf wants to do some sort of online event here such as a Q&A feel free to reach out. I am the moderator of this community so I would be happy to set something up.

[-] Adanisi 2 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

I'm just an associate member, as in I pay membership dues. I'm not employed by the FSF. Sorry if I accidentally implied that anywhere.

That would be a pretty neat thing though. Unfortunately I'm not really well connected and am not in a position to help organise that.

You could try to contact staff at #fsf on Libera IRC

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago

For instance, why is this community modded by me? You would of though that they would of monitored the state of Reddit and jumped on board Lemmy. Its things like these that show that the fsf is blind.

First of all, thanks for doing this. Some months ago when I searched for a community like this, I couldn't find anything. I'm not sure that the FSF can do much more, though.

Richard Stallman still travels the world to give talks about Free Software in multiple languages. They have a conference called Libre Planet. I wish there were more of Richard's talks on YouTube, but other than that I don't know what else they could do that would matter.

It's just very hard to reach people with such a complicated message. I think that's why a lot more people have heard of the term Open Source than Free Software. Even on Lemmy most discussions are about "Open Source" and "Linux". When I commented on some proprietary app being made for Lemmy saying that it was unethical, people downvoted me. They don't understand when I say that users deserve rights and they think Free Software just means you want to get something for free (I don't think it even has anything to do with the word "free", btw - they often think the same way about "Open Source").

It's a very complicated topic to explain to an average person, even to developers (many Free Software projects have a Discord server or use other proprietary software). We still should try whenever we can, but this should really be taught at schools. I doubt the FSF can suddenly become much better at this, no matter what they do. If you think there is a gap, we could try to fill it ourselves (and maybe we should), but we probably aren't gonna build a big audience either.

Also, I just remembered there were some talks about promoting Free Software in last Libre Planet: https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/questions-are-the-answer-how-to-have-deeper-conversations-with-anyone-about-free-software-philosophy/

[-] [email protected] 6 points 5 months ago

Im fine with stallman but the movement should not need a face. Its goals are simple and established at this point and that is what is important.

[-] Adanisi 3 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

Full disclaimer: I'm an FSF member

This is very interesting. The SFC seems like a very good organisation but they mainly seem to focus on law whereas the FSF focuses on tech (GNU, infrastructure, RYF certification, FSD, etc) and outreach. Law too of course.

Stallman hasn't been at the helm of the FSF for a few years now, so even if he was a bad person (he's not, he's just tone-deaf and pedantic - he has said the wording used to describe Epstein is not harsh enough which reveals what his opinions of his and his associates actions are), I don't see any of his actions going forwards having any sort of major impact on the FSF.

Furthermore, the FSF board is becoming more and more community driven and democratic - there has been open discussion with members about candidates, etc.

I've never heard of Moglen, I'll have to look into him, but that sounds concerning.

I'd argue there's a place for both organisations, since they seem to specialise in different areas (with crossover).

[-] possiblylinux127 3 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

I think the fsf needs to focus on outreach. Right now its run by grey beards.

Also I think the RYF certification is silly. It glosses over the issue of microcode at the expense of security which ultimately affects privacy. I think the better option would be to create a freedom scale for hardware to help consumers make purchasing choices. Also promoting old devices that have terrible battery life and ergonomics is not a great way to build popularity. It would be smarter to focus on arm and risc-v as many of those chips are compatible with free software in some way while being highly efficient and portable.

Anyway sorry for the brain dump.

Note: this is purely my option is unassociated with moderation.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

It glosses over the issue of microcode at the expense of security which ultimately affects privacy.

I'm pretty sure the FSF doesn't say that you shouldn't be allowed to update/changed the firmware. They just say it shouldn't be a part of the operating system. The OS needs to be entirely libre with no compromises.

It would be smarter to focus on arm and risc-v as many of those chips are compatible with free software in some way while being highly efficient and portable.

Most devices with those chips require a custom kernel and most likely proprietary firmware (at least for WiFi and Bluetooth). I don't think you can install an official Debian build from debian.org on a Raspberry PI for example (on RPI 4 you could by using some custom BIOS, but I'm not sure if everything will work then - https://wiki.debian.org/RaspberryPi4). Almost nobody talks about this, though. I have a PinePhone and it runs a custom kernel maintained by the community and its future is uncertain (https://blog.mobian.org/posts/2023/09/30/paperweight-dilemma/). In PinePhone Pro at lot of the patches to the Linux kernel have been upstreamed, but some things are still missing. Librem 5 developers tried to get a RYF certificate, but I'm not sure what happened there. So those kinds of devices can't save us right now.

[-] possiblylinux127 1 points 5 months ago

I currently have a Pine64 Quartz64 that is 100% free software compatible. The raspberry pi is problematic because of broadcom.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago

Oh, I see, but I'm guessing you can't use normal Debian on it? https://wiki.pine64.org/wiki/Quartz64_Software_Releases

[-] possiblylinux127 2 points 5 months ago

The kernel needs to be much newer as the WiFi module isn't in the Debian LTS

[-] Adanisi 1 points 5 months ago

You make some good points.

I agree, we should really be focusing on ARM, and especially RISC-V. If these platforms become the mainstream for computers (they already are for phones but they have a whole load of other freedom issues that need ironed out) and we have first-class support for the hardware, that gives us a leg up on the proprietary megacorporations, which is rare. It would be very beneficial.

And of course RISC-V doesn't have a Management Engine equivalent which is very nice for security and privacy.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

Stallman hasn’t been at the helm of the FSF for a few years now...

He's on the board, though.

...even if he was a bad person (he’s not, he’s just tone-deaf and pedantic...

I don't even really believe in "bad people." But the optics...

I’d argue there’s a place for both organisations, since they seem to specialise in different areas (with crossover).

Yeah, maybe I'm being too hasty to lump the FSF and SFLC in together. I guess the basis on which I was making that assumption was:

  • Moglen's been involved with the FSF. He was general council for the FSF from 1994 and served on the board of the FSF until 2007. He also founded the SFLC in 2005 and is still the chairman of the SFLC.
  • The FSF didn't join FSF Europe and SFC in disavowing Moglen and the SFLC.

I'll have to do some more research and see if the FSF has made any official statements about Moglen. If not, the silence alone is a little concerning. But yeah.

Edit: Ok, well I found this sentence on Stallman's Wikipedia page referring to when Stallman returned to the FSF as a board member in 2021:

Multiple organizations criticized, defunded and/or cut ties with the FSF,[142] including: Red Hat,[143] the Free Software Foundation Europe,[144] the Software Freedom Conservancy,[145] SUSE,[146][147] the OSI,[148] the Document Foundation,[149] the EFF,[150] and the Tor Project.[151]

So even if the SFC and FSF Europe haven't cut ties with the FSF specifically over Moglen, they have cut ties over Stallman's return to the FSF. Here's the FSFE's statement about it and the SFC's.

[-] Adanisi 2 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

He's on the board, and can be removed from the board. He also doesn't have ultimate power, just a voice.

I wouldn't jump to say the FSF condones the sentiments or actions of the SFLC, considering that the FSF was the organisation run by a vocal pro-LGBT man who also has a strong distaste for any sort of mistreatment, until a few years ago, and none of the FSF board or voting members have expressed such sentiments or supported the SFLC for these actions.

I agree that they should say something, but I don't take the lack of a statement as condoning it or agreeing, based on what I've said above.

EDIT: I see your edit. I think it'd be worth it to point out that the whole reason this controversy started, if you read the whole email chain and not badly paraphrased news articles, is that on the MIT CSAIL mailing list, people were discussing the possible actions of Marvin Minsky, one of Stallman's former professors.

Stallman comes along and sees a word he thinks has been used incorrectly and points it out, he also states that we must use words correctly so as to not dilute their meaning, arguing in the same vein as when he said "we should be calling Epstein a Serial Rapist, Sex Offender isn't harsh enough and minimises his actions" (paraphrased). Of course in an emotionally charged discussion like this where everyone is angry this is not a smart decision. He failed to read the room, someone threatened to leak the email chain, and they did.

From there many news articles pop up, many completely flipping what he said on it's head (again, by badly paraphrasing and removing important words), and that's where the controversy comes from. Many say he was condoning the actions of Epstein's associates, rather than just stupid semantics, which if you read the email chain is evident. And again, I raise the example where he says Epstein isn't described harshly enough.

As you can see, there was no malign intent on Stallman's part, only a grave failure to read the room.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago

run by a vocal pro-LGBT man who also has a strong distaste for any sort of mistreatment, until a few years ago

Can I ask to whom you're referring?

[-] Adanisi 2 points 5 months ago

That would be Stallman. Who is no longer in charge but when he was, that holds true.

I can't make specific statements about the current leadership because as far as I'm aware they haven't become vocal about this.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

FSF's leadership has always been lacking. SFC is filling the gap because it exists. Stallman made some important contributions to starting/coalescing the movement, but he's been "at the helm" since the 80's and at this point it's hard to say what FSF even does. Maintain GNU, half of which projects nobody uses and are just there so they can say they're keeping up? Maintain the GPL, which they haven't updated since 2007 and which has a whole slew of new legal workarounds now? Be a groupie club for RMS?

edit - a word

[-] [email protected] 2 points 5 months ago

It's not just the personalities, annoyingly. Even if supporters didn't need to support Stallman with absurd statements like "he's just too precise with his words for you to understand him," the FSF still spent the '90s loudly dismissing people asking straightforward questions about what would happen if someone put GPL'd software onto an appliance or behind a web server. They mostly ignore anything that isn't code. They've never looked at the future or how to convince people of their message. So, while I've donated to them in the past, I don't really see them as relevant anymore. Putting Stallman back on the board with their "we miss him" press release also made it clear that they don't see themselves as much more than his personal entourage, which even if he were the nicest, most progressive person in the world, would disqualify them as useful.

Is the Conservancy a replacement? I don't know, because I don't know if I can see their missions as overlapping enough to do so. It's been a decade since Kuhn (not to pick on him) has so much as mentioned Copyleft-Next, for example, and that repository hasn't budged in seven years.

Honestly, what I think that I'd really like to see is more of a grass-roots organization, where we're not constantly waiting for "leaders" to show up. Especially since software has largely shifted to (on the ground) management through distributed systems and issue-tracking, it seems silly to keep imagining the Free Software movement as centralized.

[-] Adanisi 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

For your first point, nobody is saying that. He was pedantic at a bad time. Not "too precise to understand". Nice strawmanning though.

What do you mean they don't care about putting GPLed software into appliances or a web server? The AGPL exists specifically to help in that area.

Regardless of their stance in the past and whether or not they saw it as a problem (I don't know), it's clear that they've seen it as a problem and have been tackling it for years.

They're also looking at the problems of LLMs for free software, and what it could mean for the future. So yeah, they do look to the future.

And they do care about convincing people, and getting people on board - that's what the new freedom ladder initiative is for.

And let's not minimize the importance of software and code in the free software movement, ok? They provide valuable infrastructure and development for the GNU project, etc, along with the FSD.

The FSF is more useful than you give it credit for. But yeah, the conservancy is also a great organisation.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 5 months ago

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I actually summarized a section of the hilariously reactionary open letter in support of Stallman.

He is usually more focused on the philosophical underpinnings, and pursuing the objective truth and linguistic purism, while underemphasising people’s feelings on matters he’s commenting on. This makes his arguments vulnerable to misunderstanding and misrepresentation…

People genuinely signed onto "objective truth" and "linguistic purism" making him "vulnerable to misunderstanding." If strawmen happen to stand among his most vocal supporters, that's not remotely my problem.

But no, "there's an AGPL that you can hunt for, and maybe someday they'll have an opinion on machine learning" isn't a counter-argument, to me. Those make my point for me, that they've never really cared about anything until it was far too late. I'm not going to tell you not to support them, but I'll thank you for not telling me that I'm wrong for using their behavior and that of their supporters to assess them.

[-] Adanisi 1 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

For what it's worth, the claims of "linguistic purism" and "objective truth" are the same thing I was referring to by pedanticism, and "underestimating people's feelings" is the same as what I was referring to by "bad time". This is the same thing, written from a more positive viewpoint. It does not contradict what I said, as it doesn't really say "too precise to understand", which was your claim.

I also think it's a bit unfair to expect everyone to have a concrete, fully fleshed out opinion on LLMs so soon. They're evidently working towards it, so I'll give them patience.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 5 months ago

Look, if you want to claim that "linguistic purism" doesn't mean "overly precise," that's your problem. If you want to support someone who "underestimates people's feelings" (a.k.a. "a creep"), that's your problem. If you want to believe that, any day now, a group that has fallen on its face for decades will finally work out its issues, that's your problem. As I've asked, please stop trying to make it my problem. You've made your point that you're a true believer, now walk away, because you're only going to convince me that you're a terrible person, from here.

[-] Adanisi 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

I was being critical of his actions myself 🙄

There's a time and a place for pedantry, that's my point. And what I initially said is that Stallman did not do it at the right time, right place.

And all I said in my previous comment regarding RMS is that what I said and what that example you brought up to try to discredit what I said are conveying the same story, worded differently.

On the topic of wording, you can claim whatever you like, but "linguistic purism", "overly precise", whatever word you want to use to make your argument look better, falls under being pedantic, which if you'll remember is what I said. I'm not claiming pedantry isn't "overly precise", technically it is, but that's irrelevant in many cases where it is just unwanted. So how about you stop spinning my words to say something I didn't.

Also, "overly precise" isn't what you said, and not what I replied to. Don't try to retroactively change this conversation. You said "too precise to be understood", which nobody is in fact saying.

And "underestimated feelings" isn't the "excuse" you think it is. Nor does it mean what you have said. It's a fact. He underestimated the emotional reaction that would happen due to his misplaced pedantry. It's kind of impossible to argue against that. Unless you're saying he knew it would blow up in his face?

And I'm not talking about how the FSF might start dealing with future issues, I'm talking about how they're already working towards it.

You sound like you need to go outside and touch grass. Do you really need to attack people on the internet because they don't think the FSF is useless?

I'm also not sure what I'm "making your problem" and what I'm doing wrong to you, you brought something up, I replied addressing it. This is how you communicate. If you're not willing to discuss something, you shouldn't say anything at all.

My takeaway from this is that you're quite emotionally immature and logically challenged. Oh and you should probably work on your reading comprehension. Unless you're deliberately misconstruing what I said? Have a nice day.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 5 months ago

For clarity, your first interaction with me was to accuse me of lying. I have twice asked you to leave me out of your fantasies. And yet, you're still here telling me that I've done something dishonest by looking at the FSF and having an opinion. I've been polite. I have not attacked you. You've been insulting and taken everything personally.

Stop projecting your immaturity onto me. Stop imagining that you're going to win my approval or respect. Stop imagining that my insistence that you stop bothering me is an attempt to have a conversation with you. And above all, go away, as I've requested three times.

[-] Adanisi 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

You could always stop responding. I mean, I can't help but notice you've not addressed anything I said in my last reply. With your changing quotes half way through and all, clearly trying to damage my argument with lies..

Oh and you absolutely have attacked me. Take one good look at the tone directed towards me in your last few replies. I'm a terrible person and all.

I respect that you have an opinion on the FSF, however the facts you were presenting to justify it to other people are either outdated or wrong. You can have your opinion, but you have to expect your facts to be scrutinised. Especially when you're using them as a stick to beat things with, and attempting to bend them to fit your preconceptions.

Also, you were lying, yeah. Nobody has been unironically saying "he's too precise to understand", amongst other things, and your examples do not map to that meaning correctly. It's an incredibly weak argument where there is much stronger link and more obvious meanings of those words (pedantry).

Why you keep replying I don't understand. If it bothers you so much, stop. This is a public forum, you chose to engage in this topic, you have to expect that other people will also engage. This isn't your personal soapbox.

[-] [email protected] 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

Yep. You can't take a direct request to stop harassing me. Blocking, like I should have done when I first spotted that you had nothing useful to say. Silly me for giving a person the benefit of the doubt.

[-] [email protected] 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

Most if not all of the accusations against Stallman have been debunked

[-] [email protected] 0 points 5 months ago* (last edited 5 months ago)

Yeah, I'll give that page a read. Just at a glance, though, it seems pretty hard to square that page with the Wikipedia page on Stallman.

But even if (and I still consider this a big if -- also clearly the SFC and FSFE don't agree) Stallman's a saint (and not just in the Church of Emacs), having to defend him is pretty problematic. To the point that whether there's validity to the accusations against him or not, it would probably be good if he parted ways with the FSF for the good of the Free Software movement.

this post was submitted on 21 Jan 2024
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