Balance relationships with companies (Re: Who talks at conference for Free Software?)

Carsten Agger agger at
Wed Jul 3 19:58:35 UTC 2019

On 7/1/19 12:12 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:
> Should people be OK with harmful organisations as long as they throw code over 
> the wall or parcel out gifts to Free Software developers occasionally? Is it 
> acceptable for communities to be bought or bribed by corporate generosity that 
> often comes at the expense of those communities and wider society?
I agree with this, which is the point Christian Imhorst is also making:
Companies like Google and Facebook may contribute lots of software which
is in principle free software, but they don't do it in the *interest* of
Free Software, or of software freedom.

Take Android. AOSP may exist, but it's practically impossible to get a
phone with it, and more and more of it has, over time, been taken out
and transferred to the proprietary Play ecosystem. Google does not
contribute to software freedom, it *uses* software freedom for its own
ends; and these ends are: Monitoring and controlling users through
proprietary software, at historically unprecedented levels of detail and
scale. That's more or less *the opposite* of what free software is
supposed to achieve.

Take Facebook. Yes, they made some cool stuff - at least some people
think React is cool (the front end people at my job think it's a
untractable monolith). But once again, what they're doing is controlling
their users through proprietary JavaScript and constantly nagging them
to install proprietary "smartphone" apps.

For both companies, the same thing is true: They do *use* free software,
and they (epecially Google) are also intelligent enough to give their
developers considerable freedom to engage with communities, and they
also benefit from software freedom, mixing the work of e.g. the Linux
community with their own effeorts. But they, as a company,  do this in
order to *take away* users' freedom in order to fulfill their business
model. Which is why both companies have often been caught messing around
with privacy settings or lying about the consequences of their
software's algorithmic surveillance of their users; which *also* is why
both companies are normally *very* secretive about their operations and
why *all* of their consumer-facing offerings are proprietary (I
recognize Chromium as a good piece of free software, but for the masses
that's not what they're promoting - but Chrome, the proprietary

I think that the free software movement - we, as a movement - should
know our friends, but to do this, we should start by knowing our
enemies. And corporations that insist upon using and disseminating
proprietary software in order to control their users, *are* enemies of
free software, not friends. They may have sympatethic individuals
working for them (obviously they do!), but that doesn't alter the fact
that these companies, by their very operations and their very business
model, are deeply hostile to ordinary users' freedom to use, inspect,
change, share and generally control their own software.


-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: pEpkey.asc
Type: application/pgp-keys
Size: 2452 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>

More information about the Discussion mailing list