negative campaigning?

Paul Boddie paul at
Mon Jul 31 09:52:48 UTC 2017

On Monday 31. July 2017 09.23.18 Mirko Boehm - FSFE wrote:
> “Free Software is good as it gives you choice and control over your data.”
> - a positive, user oriented message that tells people what they should
> think about when choosing what to use. Good.


> “Proprietary social networks aggregate your data and sell it, which may
> violate your privacy.” - a neutral, fact-based message that conveys a clear
> problem. Not negative campaigning. Good.

Right. But the problem here is that a lot of people don't know which social 
networks are proprietary. Maybe they didn't care about things being 
proprietary to begin with, and so they still aren't any wiser about what such 
a message means.

Some people still also think that "proprietary" is good because it is like the 
magic "secret ingredient" that makes a product "taste better". The challenge 
then becomes about making a clear message that doesn't need to do too much 

> “You should feel bad because you are using Windows, you should use Linux
> instead.” - a negative, aggressive message that makes somebody feel bad
> because of a choice they made (for reasons we don’t even know). Negative
> campaigning. Bad.

Criticising the person for making a choice, informed or otherwise, is 
obviously bad. Everyone makes choices that they later regret, wishing they had 
known more about a topic, and it doesn't help to blame them for their 

However, you missed an example between these last two, where one might mention 
examples of proprietary services by name. This is the risky part because, 
framed as a classical advertising situation, you're talking about "the 
competition" who might not like you talking about disadvantages of their 

(What also complicates things for organisations like FSFE is that some of 
these service operators fund and develop Free Software. So, there are certain 
common interests, even if those services are proprietary and hostile to 

Being able to point to specific solutions that do what people want, that are 
Free Software and encourage interoperability, is also helpful so that people 
know what to do with a message. Unfortunately, people probably feel that they 
get told to stop doing something, but the alternative is either unclear or 
involves a lot of extra effort in a field they are ill-equipped to 


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