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

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Wed Jun 21 14:47:13 UTC 2017

On 21/06/17 12:22, Erik Albers wrote:

> Now I would be interested what you think? Do you think that - although the use
> of proprietary platforms is ethically not supportable - the chances of
> convincing new people to use and further Free Software are worth the punishment?
> Or do you think that our message should not occur on platforms like Facebook
> or Twitter at all, because it contradicts our efforts in getting people to use
> decentralized services, run with Free Software and therefore potentially harm
> us in the long run?

I feel there are a whole range of questions and topics that arise.

You mention efforts to get people to use decentralized services.  One
trap that arises in these discussions is that people believe it is a
choice between Facebook vs some other technology.  The reality is that
before facebook, many movements succeeded in the real world through
grass roots campaigns and word of mouth and that still works just as
well today, maybe even better.  A booth in a local market, church fair
or library, one-on-one discussions with leaders in the local community,
asking questions at a town hall meeting are all real-world examples.

When comparing to facebook, etc, these are some of the other things that
come to mind:

- how much time is spent getting messages into the platform, maintaining
buddy lists, updating privacy settings every time they change?

- do we have the ability to control where replies go, e.g. getting
people to respond on an email list, or does the platform insist that we
use their mailboxes and built-in communications channels?  Do they make
it impossible to disable their internal messaging tools, meaning we end
up losing more time every day checking for replies in every platform?

- how many people actually see what is posted on facebook, if it is not
buried under all the other content on the platform, including paid
advertising, cat photos and baby photos from the friends who actually
use the platform?  If somebody only looks once per week, is the
probability they see a post from FSFE even close to 1 in 100?

- are the people who take an hour out of every day to browse facebook
really the people we want to influence?  Is it better to look for
channels that reach more busy and influential people?

- is the "viral" campaign just a myth or an improbable outcome like
winning the lottery?  Do the majority of campaigns on social media put
in more effort than the reward they get back?

- will users who want to use facebook copy our content to the platform
anyway, making it unnecessary for FSFE to directly post things there?

- if FSFE has an official presence on those platforms, are we endorsing
them?  What impact does that have on our credibility?

- systems like facebook are made by the establishment, for the
establishment.  Zuckerberg is a regular at Bilderberg these days.  This
brings me to the age old question: can you change the system by using
the rules the system gives you?  People like the Bolsheviks and Gandhi
didn't exactly think so.



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