Free software advocates seek removal of Richard Stallman and entire FSF board

Multiple posts on reddit has turned into a dicey, war zone arguing over what pedophilia is. Please think before you type and keep it civil.

Edited multiple times for adding additional context, and fixing typos.

TLDR ;

Letter signers include Neil McGovern, GNOME Foundation executive director and former Debian Project Leader; Deb Nicholson, general manager of the Open Source Initiative; Matthew Garrett, a former member of the FSF board of directors; seven of the eight members of the X.org Foundation board of directors; Elana Hashman of the Debian Technical Committee, Open Source Initiative, and Kubernetes project; Molly de Blanc of the Debian Project and GNOME Foundation; and more than 300 others.

The letter said all members of the FSF board should be removed because they “have enabled and empowered 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.” The letter also called for Stallman to be removed from his position leading the GNU Project.

“RMS has a history of mistreating women and making them feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and unwelcome,” the page also said, while linking to a summary of allegations.

A lengthy summary of events that lead to Stallman’s resignation.

TLDR of Stallman’s past that lead to his resignation; Stallman objected to the use of the word “assaulting” and called it “morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.” during the Epstein sex traficking incident.

Many people started to look into Stallman’s past writings over the following days to find what were considered troubling statements related to underage sex and laws relating to child pornography from 2013 and earlier.

Some examples of these earlier remarks.

https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html#05%20June%202006%20%28Dutch%20paedophiles%20form%20political%20party%29

https://stallman.org/archives/2012-jul-oct.html#15_September_2012_%28Censorship_of_child_pornography%29

https://stallman.org/archives/2003-may-aug.html (28 June 2003)

To quote one:

The nominee is quoted as saying that if the choice of a sexual partner were protected by the Constitution, “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia” also would be. He is probably mistaken, legally–but that is unfortunate. All of these acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness.

Stallman defending one who had “sex” with an underaged girl: https://web.archive.org/web/20180924231708/https://www.stallman.org/archives/2018-jul-oct.htmldefended

On September 14, Stallman acknowledged that since the time of his past writings, he had learned that there were problems with underage sex.

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Red Hat released this statement, suspending all donations to FSF. Many Fedora contributors have signed that letter too.

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There are two separate questions here:

  1. Red Hat corporation donations: these are a decision for Red Hat. We can be grateful when they make donations that help people in the wider world.

  2. harsh public criticism: Red Hat and Fedora do not need to make any official statements. When an organization makes statements it sets a bad example, it makes the animosity more entrenched. Public statements should be reserved for proven cases of criminality.

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Fedora is not in the business of “harsh public criticism”. However, we sometimes do need to make official statements. As the FSF are the stewards of the GPL and of much GNU software, and because we have sponsored and attended FSF events, this affects us directly.

Stallman’s treatment of women has also affected people in the Fedora community directly, and it’s something we should not have tolerated for so long. Behavior does not need to rise to the level of criminality to be harmful.

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I don’t mean to diminish the concerns of women in any way. I believe it is important to find ways to listen to their concerns and solve problems without having a winners and losers scenario. The women expressing concerns in Australia recently did not name specific men in their petitions, even though their concerns are way into the domain of criminal behavior. People listened to them.

If the wider audience feels that there is an overreaction then that can undermine efforts to encourage listening.

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I do not fully know of sexual harrasment issue within the FSF so I cannot add to that. I mainly know about Stallman’s peculiar remarks aobut child sexuality, and have mainly focused on that topic in my TLDR of the article. Though I do agree that it is important to listen first before moving into action.

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I do not advocate that , after the shock of this news, I read many articles and still support Richard Stallman, maybe he had some statements that was not the most correct , but that doesn’t invalidate all the others statements and actions . SemanticArgument1

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Stallman’s remarks were modified by deleting half the paragraph. This half of the paragraph is critical:

Full email thread:

The emails are definitely uncomfortable for outsiders to read. Nonetheless, it is clear that he did not accept such behavior was normal or consensual, the word “coerce” or “coercion” appears many times in the thread.

In the cases in Australia right now, nobody wrote emails, everything was discussed face to face, so the Prime Minister can deny anybody told him about the crime on the sofa. In one case, CSAIL, the emails were probably too verbose, to the point that it can cause offense even when it is read correctly. In the other case people did everything to avoid discussing or leaving a record of a serious crime.

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I agree with this. Stallman has brought many improvements to the community and any faults of him should not diminish the work he has done previously. That being said, we shouldn’t completely ignore those faults either. We should compliment well while dishonoring the bad.

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I think this post

covers that topic nicely.

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@suppaman I think it is a big mistake to jump into the FSF discussion and try to make opinion without knowledge about previous history of FSF and Stallman and without researching the topic well beyond the events of 2019. An I am sad that so many people make this mistake, and that the open-letter really doesn’t explain that.

This story is complex and hard and it spans 30-40 years. While recent events triggered the attention of many people, the story itself is not new and it wasn’t new 15 years ago. It wasn’t easy 15 years ago either.

You want a simple answer and simple foundation. But you can not really reduce it to one or two or five or 20 events. None of those events taken individually and considered in isolation would really explain the current situation. It is the sum of everything, all those smaller interactions happening consistently over many years and never addressed, which led to this.

It is the inability to properly react on individual events while they were small and “not that bad” which then grew in something much larger and much more painful and ugly.

So the main point is not that Stallman is “that bad”. The point is that our approach to those issues should be different. The way how we treat our leaders and our community members should change.

And that reintroducing Stallman to the FSF board goes against that.

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Nothing I can disagree with here honestly. True words my friend.

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This statement is like saying Rock fans advocate Angus Young leave the ACDC band, because it represents rock n’roll badly

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I don’t think that analogy really makes much sense. This isn’t rock and roll and I don’t think treating Stallman — or anyone in open source and free software — like a rock star leads anywhere good.

That said, musicians who have a constant history of mistreatment of women and who defend sexual molestation of children should, at the very least, not be in leadership positions. I don’t think there is any controversy to that statement at all — except maybe that it doesn’t go far enough.

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Stallman does not “defend sexual molestation of children” that is lie in my point of view and if mistreatment anyone (not just women), call the police or open a disciplinary process .
And not based your opinion on subjective posts on tweeter and semantics interpretations of what he wrote.

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It is not a lie. It is based on his own statements which you can find on his site still today (some of which are quoted and linked in the first post in this thread). I know he has recanted one specific claim, but it is a weak and half-hearted disclaimer. You really don’t have to go to “semantics” here — just take him at his own word.

Saying “not just women” is deflecting from the specific issue, kind of like making analogies with rock bands. The actual reported problems are ongoing harassment of women. Yes, it is true in general that no one should be mistreated. Specifically, Stallman’s behavior towards women from his position of power is unacceptable.

As for disciplinary process: Stallman was asked to resign in the first place for these reasons, which are not in real dispute, but has been reinstated without any process at all, let alone any attempt at addressing the issues. So that’s exactly what is being asked for. And this is also why people are asking for the FSF board to resign: they are not doing what is needed to make things right.

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As Paul rightfully notes at the very top here, this thread is not going to go into a “dicey war zone” with arguments over what constitutes pedophilia. I can’t see that benefiting us in any way.

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Richard Stallman did nothing wrong. The SJW cancel culture needs to stop.

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Look, we are also not going to have a culture war here. The terms “cancel culture” and “SJW” are pejorative shorthand that do not help in any actual constructive conversation. Seriously and thoughtfully discuss substance, or don’t engage.

Consider this an official forum warning.

I am going to put this thread on “slow” mode so people can do so without it becoming overheated.

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If people decide to spend some time reading what people are posting on Twitter and listening to others, they would see there is a lot more stories than the few mails being discussed.

And people would also see that no one deny RMS vision was world changing. And personally, I tend to even agree with some people on how the 2019 scandal was slightly out of control, in line with what Natalie Wynn explained in her video “Cancelling”. I can get the whole free speech angle.

However, I nonetheless signed the letter, because I also know a lot of people with “stories” about RMS, ranging from “weird but ok” to “I understand how you do not want to be involved in a community that tolerate him”.

I never interacted directly with him, but I can corroborate what happened at Libreplanet on Not The First Time We Tried (FSF, GNU, RMS, etc.) , as I was there.

And that’s not RMS that changed or became cranky with age, you can see ex-FSF employees discussing how RMS was a rather shitty boss in the 2000s ( https://twitter.com/paulnivin/status/1374499598853545986 , https://twitter.com/paulnivin/status/1377079987950395393 ).

This wasn’t also just the FSF, you can see account of the effect of RMS on MIT mailling lists ( https://twitter.com/EyasSH/status/1377238180366258178 & A reflection on the departure of RMS | by Thomas Bushnell, BSG | Medium ), and how it affected newer students.

We can argue what is just, what is free speech or anything. I doubt I am going to convince anyone on that, and I do not have time for that.

But if we sidestep all of this, we still have the very simple question on what is best for the free software movement, a goal that everybody here would agree on.

If a head figure, RMS, is making people silently leave, how can anyone argue that 1 single person is more important than 40 to 50 people or more that would have helped ?

40 to 50 is a very conservative approximation, I think that’s bigger (especially over the years).

But how does losing that much volunteers to keep 1 person in place is helping free software in any way ?

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