Is it acceptable to use proprietary software (platforms) to promote software freedom?

Mat Witts admin at
Mon Aug 14 16:53:42 UTC 2017

> Here is my position, stated as "logically" as possible.

Okay, although I'm not sure this is the best way to approach things
because I suspect we may be arguing about tactics, not ethics.

Discouraging people from using FB for example can be restated as
'encouraging people to use FS'.

I prefer the second aim to the first because it is less dogmatic.
Discouragement implies moral wrongdoing, whereas encouragement promotes
the idea of gradients of bad behavior. I hope we can agree that pranking
someone in college with an ice bucket challenge is not in the same
category as state sponsored water boarding?... ideally perhaps neither
behavior ought to be tolerated but this distinction is very important to me.

I am fine about people using FB and about proprietary software, because
within the four freedoms there has to be the freedom to develop software
for private use.

Within the four freedoms, it seems consistent to allow people to develop
software and not share it, otherwise that is not freedom, that is

That is what FB have done and they have made a lot of money doing it. We
know it's bad but I uphold their right to do that. Some FS advocates
think all proprietary software should be banned (with no context
specific criteria) but I think that position is too dogmatic and my
activism is about eliminating proprietary software from the public
sphere while leaving individuals and companies to develop software
privately if they want, provided it is legal and not harming anyone. If
you believe proprietary software is inherently harmful , then I would
say 'okay', but for me - it almost always depends on what purpose it has
been designed for - I don't feel morally obliged to share and
share-alike the mobile computer game I made for my daughter, but when I
develop software for an educational establishment my sense of obligation
ramps up a lot.  

So, with all of that out of the way - let's go through it.

P1: FSFE discourages people to use FB because FB TOS are unfair.

Agreed, though the reasons to avoid we already know are over-determined
(TOS is sufficient for your argument, if you'd like to modify / add more
that would also be fine but excessive)

P2: Trading the number of people you can reach out against the
consistency of your behavior (aligning your moral with your discourse)
is not a good idea.

This took me a while to unpack. I am still not sure if I understand this
premise correctly but i think the assumptions you are making here are:

A1) The rationale for staying on FB is about quantity ('number of people').

A1-R: I would say the main reason for FSFE being on FB is also about
quality. My thinking here is if you want to influence the behaviour of
facebook users and owners, a good place to start would be facebook? This
seems self-evident to me and would require persuasive evidence that
facebook users use facebook the same way as they use say, diaspora or
gnu social etc. I suspect you will struggle obtaining such evidence.

A2) Extending reach is not consistent with moral behaviour.

A2-R: This sounds like a charge of 'selling out'? If so, I wonder how
you arrive at this. Given P1, refusing an opportunity to act
consistently with P1 would actually be inconsistent?

On this reading P2 is not valid and thus requires more demonstration.  

P3: If FSFE uses FB, then the FSFE behavior will be inconsistent with
what it promotes, whether it reaches more people or not.

This seems to be a remix of P2. I can't find any new information here
and thus it requires more demonstration (see my response to P2).

C: From that it logically follows that using FB is not a good idea for
the FSFE.

I agree that the confusion is at P2.

You say you 'strongly believe in B', (P2) but it requires further
demonstration around the assumptions you are making, then we can see if
there is anything to disagree on, because I suspect there isn't much we
disagree about - and it may all boil down to personal taste.

Personal taste wouldn't be something that I think requires FSFE to do
any work on.

From this, it seems consistent for FSFE to use FB to 'discourage people
to use FB' which (restated) is not antithetical to the aim of
'encouraging people to use FS' 

/ m

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