Constructive measures to help people communicate freely

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Mon Mar 26 18:16:03 UTC 2018

On 25/03/18 18:08, Paul Boddie wrote:
> Hello,
> There has been a lot said recently about Facebook, Google, and other entities 
> that facilitate online communication through services that have hidden impacts 
> on people's freedoms. But as I noted before, it is more constructive to focus 
> on how we in the Free Software community can help others communicate using 
> more respectful tools and services.
> This isn't just in the context of recent discussions about Mozilla and 
> Facebook: I also mentioned it when Daniel suggested a plugin to remind people 
> about how their use of proprietary, exploitative services might be impacting 
> their freedom and those of others. While I understand what the motives are for 
> doing something like this, telling people that they are bad only really 
> appeals to people who like punishing themselves or who admit to weakness and 
> want someone else to apply the discipline.

That is not a good summary of who the plugin is for or how it will help them

- who it is for: anybody, whether they know about free software or not.
The user would be able to specify their level of understanding and the
plugin behavior would be optimized for them.  E.g. if the user says "I
work in a free software company and I have to avoid proprietary services
to comply with policy", the plugin might be quite strict but if they say
"I want to gradually take back control" it will behave more softly.

- how it will help: it will NOT be telling people they are "bad".  Even
people with the best intentions struggle to overcome bad habits.  There
is significant research in neuroscience to show why that is hard, it is
not just a choice or lazyness.  When a young driver learns the habits of
correct driving, they almost always start with a driving instructor.
Imagine the chaos on the roads if nobody ever had a driving instructor:
that is what exists online today.  The plugin can try and take a role
like the driving instructor, giving positive help.

> Now, it is often the case that any negative message is accompanied by a 
> positive one. One might suggest a range of alternatives that are better for 
> people. So, people have already suggested that the FSFE and the community in 
> general promote things like Diaspora, GNU Social, Mastodon, or whatever. But I 
> don't think this goes far enough.

We also need to go beyond technology: remind people that they don't need
any of these things (whether proprietary or free) to live their lives.
The human race evolved for millions of years without smartphone apps.

When I tell people I don't have any social media accounts and I'm happy
about it, they feel more enthusiastic too.  But if I tell them that I
don't have facebook and then they were to see me on Twitter then the
message would be undermined.



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