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Statement on Richard Stallman rejoining the FSF board

PP Pirate Praveen Public Seen by 88

We learnt through a public announcement that Richard Stallman is again part of the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation, one of our independent sister organisations. We disapprove of this step that came without any message of remorse or willingness to change.

In 2019, Richard Stallman resigned as president and board member of the Free Software Foundation. On 21 March 2021 Stallman announced he is member of the board again. The FSFE only learnt about that fact through his public announcement.

We believe this step and how it was communicated harms the future of the Free Software movement. The goal of the software freedom movement is to empower all people to control technology and thereby create a better society for everyone. Free Software is meant to serve everyone regardless of their age, ability or disability, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. This requires an inclusive and diverse environment that welcomes all contributors equally. The FSFE realises that we ourselves and the Free Software movement still have to work hard to be that place where everyone feels safe and respected to participate in it in order to fulfill the movement's mission.

One crucial factor in making our community more inclusive is to recognise and reflect when other people are offended or harmed by our own actions and consider this feedback in future actions. The way Richard Stallman announced his return to the board unfortunately lacks any acknowledgement of this kind of thought process, and we are deeply disappointed that the FSF board did not address these concerns before electing him a board member again. Overall, we feel the current step sends the wrong signal to existing and future community members.

That is why, as a legally and financially independent organisation, in which Richard Stallman has not had any decision-making powers, we call for his resignation from all FSF bodies. The FSF needs to seriously reflect on this decision as well as their decision-making process to prevent similar issues from happening again. Therefore, in the current situation we see ourselves unable to collaborate both with the FSF and any other organisation in which Richard Stallman has a leading position. Instead, we will continue to work with groups and individuals who foster diversity and equality in the Free Software movement in order to achieve our joint goal of empowering all users to control technology.

FSF Europe statement https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210324-01.html

Akshay wrote this on his blog https://asd.learnlearn.in/learn-from-rms/

Matthias Klumpp wrote this on a debian mailing list https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2021/03/msg00065.html

and I signed this letter https://rms-open-letter.github.io/

PP

Pirate Praveen Wed 24 Mar 2021 7:42PM

We can just replace FSF Europe and their relationship with FSF here I think.

PP

Poll Created Wed 24 Mar 2021 8:00PM

Statement on Richard Stallman rejoining the FSF board Closed Mon 5 Apr 2021 5:30PM

Outcome
by Pirate Praveen Mon 5 Apr 2021 5:32PM

Since some of our community was strongly supporting RMS, in our matrix group, I think we need to consider their opinion and take them along. @Akshay has a different draft he shared in matrix and I hope he will propose it here.

Publish this statement on our website.

We learnt through a public announcement that Richard Stallman is again part of the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation. We disapprove of this step that came without any message of remorse or willingness to change.

In 2019, Richard Stallman resigned as president and board member of the Free Software Foundation. On 21 March 2021 Stallman announced he is member of the board again. FSCI only learnt about that fact through his public announcement.

We believe this step and how it was communicated harms the future of the Free Software movement. The goal of the software freedom movement is to empower all people to control technology and thereby create a better society for everyone. Free Software is meant to serve everyone regardless of their age, ability or disability, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. This requires an inclusive and diverse environment that welcomes all contributors equally. FSCI realises that we ourselves and the Free Software movement still have to work hard to be that place where everyone feels safe and respected to participate in it in order to fulfill the movement's mission.

One crucial factor in making our community more inclusive is to recognise and reflect when other people are offended or harmed by our own actions and consider this feedback in future actions. The way Richard Stallman announced his return to the board unfortunately lacks any acknowledgement of this kind of thought process, and we are deeply disappointed that the FSF board did not address these concerns before electing him a board member again. Overall, we feel the current step sends the wrong signal to existing and future community members.

That is why, as a legally and financially independent community, in which Richard Stallman has not had any decision-making powers, we call for his resignation from all FSF bodies. The FSF needs to seriously reflect on this decision as well as their decision-making process to prevent similar issues from happening again. Therefore, in the current situation we see ourselves unable to collaborate both with the FSF and any other organisation in which Richard Stallman has a leading position. Instead, we will continue to work with groups and individuals who foster diversity and equality in the Free Software movement in order to achieve our joint goal of empowering all users to control technology.

Richard Stallman seems oblivious towards feelings of other people interacting or working with him and when others provide feedback about this conduct, he doesn't seem to acknowledge the shortcomings in his behaviour. This makes his public conduct discouraging for many people to participate in activities of Free Software which involves him.

Bradley Kuhn said "When the escalation started, I still considered RMS both a friend and colleague, and I attempted to argue with him at length to convince him that some of his positions were harmful to sexual assault survivors and those who are sex-trafficked, and to the people who devote their lives in service to such individuals. More importantly to the FSF, I attempted to persuade RMS that launching a controversial campaign on sexual behavior and morality was counter to his and FSF's mission to advance software freedom, and told RMS that my duty as an FSF Director was to assure the best outcome for the FSF, which IMO didn't include having a leader who made such statements." [1]

Sam Hartman said "RMS has demonstrated that he cannot hold to standards of respect for others, respect for their boundaries, or standards of community safety. We need those standards to be a welcoming community." [2]

Matthew Garrett said "I've spent a lot of time working with him to help him understand why various positions he holds are harmful. I've reached the conclusion that it's not that he's unable to understand, he's just unwilling to change his mind." [3]

Heavily based on FSF Europe statement https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210324-01.html

[1] Bradley M. Kuhn, Former member of FSF Board of Directors, Former FSF's Voting Member who had 22-year uninterrupted affiliation with the FSF. http://www.ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2019/10/15/fsf-rms.html

Bradley M. Kuhn was this year's honoree of the Award for the Advancement of Free Software, an award given to an individual who has made a great contribution to the progress and development of free software through activities that accord with the spirit of free software. https://www.fsf.org/news/free-software-awards-winners-announced-civicrm-bradley-kuhn-and-alyssa-rosenzweig

[2] Sam Hartman, former Debian Project Leader https://hartmans.livejournal.com/100652.html

[3] Matthew Garrett https://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/52587.html

Related reading:

Akshay wrote this on his blog https://asd.learnlearn.in/learn-from-rms/

Matthias Klumpp wrote this on a debian mailing list https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2021/03/msg00065.html

EFF https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/03/statement-re-election-richard-stallman-fsf-board

KDE https://ev.kde.org/2021/03/24/on-the-reappointment-of-rms-fsf/

and many people in the Free Software community signed this letter https://rms-open-letter.github.io/

Updates: 1 April 2021: Added more quotes and references suggested by @Ravi Dwivedi

4 April 2021: Added a paragraph about RMS behavior before the quotes as suggested by @Ravi Dwivedi and @raghukamath

Results

Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 100.0% 7 P PP RD VKJ DU SS PV
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  
Undecided 0% 211 AP V K RD VT HM AM NE D AB A S B NF S RV DU JKJ S N

7 of 218 people have participated (3%)

SS

Subin Siby
Agree
Sat 27 Mar 2021 3:57PM

FSF needs transparency. It shouldn't be like the infamous "പിൻവാതിൽ നിയമനം" (backdoor appointments).

A

Akshay Thu 25 Mar 2021 2:50AM

I would like to hear any response from FSF or existing board members on why they did this before deciding on this statement.

A

Akshay Thu 25 Mar 2021 5:12AM

https://www.fsf.org/news/preliminary-board-statement-on-fsf-governance has come. It doesn't immediately revert the decision, but is about post-facto setting up a transparent procedure.

I think it would have been better to restore the situation to what was before Stallman joined, then set up this procedure and see if Stallman could be added.

PP

Pirate Praveen Fri 26 Mar 2021 5:17AM

I extended the voting period to April 21 to see if they respond by that time.

RD

Ravi Dwivedi Thu 1 Apr 2021 3:27PM

We can publish a statement now and then update later when FSF responds

PP

Pirate Praveen Fri 26 Mar 2021 5:04AM

Sam Hartman, former Debian Project Leader https://hartmans.livejournal.com/100652.html

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