Open Letter to the Free Software Movement

This is an open letter to all the people who, in their good faith, are concerned about the recent events which have shaken the long-standing leadership of the Free Software Movement.

On dyne.org, Amsterdam, 27th September 2019

Dear hackers, first and foremost let us say that, as a collective and in the true uncompromising spirit of the teachings of Free/Libre Software/Society, we are capable of doing much better than what has just happened.

Many of us work everyday towards ensuring that everyone, regardless of their ethniticy, religion, gender, or neurotypicality, can participate, learn and share in our communities. We do not claim we are perfect, we sometimes make mistakes, some of them guided by systemic patterns and structures of power still entangling us, and some of them just due to our human nature . But we claim our right to learn every day how to become better at including all contributions and opinions, and this implies the ability of making mistakes without being destroyed by them.

In the past years it has become clear that our movement and our ethos has transformed the world as we know it, with all the courage and all the mistakes considered; some of us rose to fame, while some others wore masks, both as a message and as a protection from the regime of global espionage. In any case, many of us have sacrificed a great deal of comfort in life to change what needed to be changed.

Let us not be mistaken about the cause that brought us here and let us not forget where the injustice comes from.

Let us not forget then what we, the people, have successfully built so far, resisting to the incredible pressure that corporate corruption and military regimes have put on us. Let us not forget that the battle is still raging and we are losing sight and positioning.

Open Source, as an economic model based on knowledge acquisition by corporate powers, is part of the problem.

Free/Libre Software, as an uncompromising philosophy and ethics focused on knowledge sharing and participation, is an important part of the solution.

The era of benevolent dictators for life in Free software projects is probably coming to an end. And we shall be relieved as well as empowered by that: it is now our turn to stand strong, united as a movement, to defend our values without compromise and to improve the quality of our interactions. It is now our turn to look beyond personal responsibilities, to acknowledge that if a context is poisoned by bullying, machism and sexist behavior, it is not just the fault of a single person, but of all those who tolerate and support those conducts. We have now the opportunity to point to the problem and to solve it and this will improve our movement, the Free Software movement.

What we really don’t need to do is to ignore, denigrate or disown the values of the Free Software movement.

We need to honour the pride of the people of India who had the courage to stand up against the “free basic” campaign. We need to support the courage of all those defending network neutrality from attacks capable of putting under control the political integrity of entire continents. We need to facilitate the synergy between community networks in Oaxaca enabled by software written by activists all around the World. We need to empower the self-determination of entire populations in an age in which computing is as pervasive as our own social relationships.

We need to reclaim our freedom from an ever-watching system of control and prediction that judges us from the algorithmic projection of our own intentions. We need to defend our freedom to be able to denounce all of this and speak freely by means that connect us, all over the world, without borders, intermediaries and censorship.

We need to be conscious of where we are standing in this fight.

As a trans-national movement, united by solidarity, awareness and ethics, we shall not negotiate the motivations we fight for.

We would not publish this letter if we would not think it was extremely urgent to do so. The Free Software movement is losing ground, grip and resources, and the scarce resources available to the movement are not even shared equally. Global meetings that are vital to our legacy and development are at risk of being shut down or assimilated by corporate corruption: the Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit (FSCONS) will not take place this year, after many iterations that have hosted outstanding standards of diversity. The biggest community-based event for free software developers in the world, FOSDEM, is at risk of violating many of its foundational principles by welcoming corporate sponsors, who contribute to the dilution of meaning and ethical urgency of Free Software by supporting corporate Openwashing campaigns.

And this is just a small account from Europe. We know that, wherever you are in the world, if you have been in this movement, you are probably struggling as well. Believe us now when we say that it will not help to burn the Man, to obliterate the memory of our cause, to expunge someone’s contributions to it by means of an angry mob; that would be an act of harassment we cannot accept.

We will start improving as a movement when we show the highest notion of what a movement can be: capable of reflection, understanding and healing its wounds, ready to evolve and progress while maintaining the integrity of its aims.

We are not the problem, we are part of the solution.

The Free World needs the Free Software movement.