Mozilla first, now FSFE?

Paul Boddie paul at
Sat Mar 24 14:03:18 UTC 2018

On Saturday 24. March 2018 06.22.41 C. Cossé wrote:
> FB enables people to connect in an ever-disconnected world.

Wait a moment! The world is more connected than ever, technologically. Isn't 
that one of the problems here? "Everyone" is on Facebook, but they are all in 
their own little bubble or silo, subject to a game of divide and rule.

(I'm not saying that it isn't convenient to be in a silo communicating with 
your friends and family, but what I increasingly noticed on LinkedIn before I 
quit that as well, was that I was being "messaged" more and more by 
"influencers". I found that rather offensive, and I would object to other 
people being treated the same way, too.)

> Rather than boycott it altogether how about campaigning to change it
> according to FSF/E values?

What leverage does the FSF or FSFE have over Facebook? The overriding 
motivation for anything Facebook does involves making colossal sums of money 
by selling advertising opportunities to organisations exploiting the company's 
knowledge of its users' behaviour (and of others who happen to interact with 
its ubiquitous online tracking assets).

The people campaigning to "delete Facebook" understand this very well because 
the language of money is practically the only language Facebook's executives 
understand. For once, we are on the same page as those people who continually 
remind us, somewhat inaccurately, that the only responsibility a company has 
is to its greedy shareholders who want maximum returns on their investments.

> How much change to FB code/policy would it take to align with FSF/E
> "values"?

The FSF and FSFE are primarily concerned with software freedom, but software 
freedom is beneficial in upholding values like transparency and end-user 
control over their technology, which itself feeds into matters of privacy and 

Facebook already uses and contributes to Free Software, but you cannot 
"download Facebook" and run it yourself. Even if various projects used by 
Facebook were relicensed under the AGPL, there would still be infrastructure 
that is proprietary. At this point, the FSF and FSFE can only "campaign" for a 
change with no real leverage.

It may get to the point where government regulation demands transparency 
around the infrastructure, the "algorithms", and so on. Given how large 
companies manage to evade regulatory measures by "forgetting" to comply with 
them - Facebook is already subject to some measures, I believe - I don't think 
this will ever provide a satisfactory solution.

But in terms of software freedom, would you even want to have an entire 
Facebook implementation you could deploy yourself, anyway? Is it desirable 
when considering those peripheral values to try and gather large numbers of 
people into the same solution where the same hazards around privacy and 
surveillance will simply present themselves again?

> That's the easiest solution to the whole dilema, not to attempt to get the
> world to switch-over to whatever-the-f*ck obscure platform FSF/E deems
> "acceptable".

You are correct in that it generally isn't about picking specific solutions as 
winners because this usually just transfers the problem to something else. But 
in instances such as this, the FSF and FSFE should uphold notions of 
interoperability and choice. The only easy solutions here are pretend 
solutions that just deny that the concentration of power and influence is 
harmful and that there is nothing more to see in this ongoing controversy.

The FSF and FSFE need to promote solutions that allow people to communicate 
with each other. Again, that is a topic for another message because it demands 
that we consider constructive strategies for achieving this, which is a 
separate thing from highlighting the perils of Facebook and similar platforms.

> It's contra-reality.  What are you so afraid of?

I sincerely suggest you switch back to the more socially-responsible parts of 
the "mainstream media" to find a long list of things that are worrying about 
the effect of Facebook and similar data aggregation platforms on society and 


More information about the Discussion mailing list