Industry Analyst & Strategist

Free Software Foundation (FSF) in Crisis

I did not expect to see this come across the desk this week, let’s begin with a snippet from the official letter, An open letter to remove Richard M. Stallman from all leadership positions: “We are calling for the removal of the entire Board of the Free Software Foundation. These are people who have enabled and empowered [Richard M. Stallman] RMS for years. They demonstrate this again by permitting him to rejoin the FSF Board. It is time for RMS to step back from the free software, tech ethics, digital rights, and tech communities, for he cannot provide the leadership we need. We are also calling for Richard M. Stallman to be removed from all leadership positions, including the GNU Project.” Emphasis from the original post.”

Intra-post Update as of March 26, I’m happy to see that WP Tavern’s Sarah Gooding has picked this up, Free Software Community Condemns Richard Stallman’s Reinstatement to FSF Board of Directors: “By allowing Stallman to resume his position, the FSF squandered the opportunity it had to redefine itself following his resignation in 2019. The organization missed the chance to carve out a new future that would be free from his damaging influence. If the board doesn’t act in the best interests of the greater community, by remedying its lack of transparency and accountability, it may permanently resign the organization to irrelevance.” The bigger question is whether Automattic,, and/or Matt Mullenweg add their names to the list. By my count WordPress+Automattic is equal to Joomla signatories.

Also as of late March 25: FSF president Geoffrey Knauth announced, “I commit myself to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership assuring continuity of the FSF’s mission and compliance with fiduciary requirements.”

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Wow, just wow, for a couple of reasons. The RMS issue looked to have been resolved when he resigned back on September 16, 2019. There are many articles about the specific issue which led to this, ZDNet does a clear job, Richard Stallman resigns from Free Software Foundation after defending Jeffrey Epstein behavior: “Now, after defending the behavior of the late Marvin Minsky, AI pioneer and associate of notorious billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, RMS has resigned as president and board member of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).”

For unknown reasons, it has been reported that RMS is returning to the board of FSF. The backlash has been strong and swift from many quarters.

The Open Source Initiative calls upon the Free Software Foundation to hold Stallman responsible for past behavior, remove him from the organization’s leadership and work to address the harm he caused to all those he has excluded: those he considers less worthy, and those he has hurt with his words and actions. We will not participate in any events that include Richard M. Stallman and we cannot collaborate with the Free Software Foundation until Stallman is removed from the organization’s leadership.

Open Source Initiative, OSI Response to RMS’s reappointment to the Board of the Free Software Foundation

The news that Stallman is back came as a shock to me. I feel very strongly that he needs to be removed from leadership roles. There is no room for his misogynistic and other problematic behavior.

Dries Buytaert, Founder and Project Lead of Drupal, The Free Software Foundation: it’s time for a new beginning

We can’t demand better of the internet if we don’t demand better of our leaders, colleagues and ourselves. We’re with the Open Source Diversity Community, Outreachy & the Software Conservancy project in supporting this petition

Mozilla Foundation, Twitter Tweet

And there are many more, the list of signatories is not only long but impressive. I would encourage reviewing the matters at hand, and if convinced to add your voice.

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