I was wrong about Google and Facebook: there’s nothing wrong with them (so say we all)

ar.al/2019/01/11/i-was-wrong-a

It’s always difficult admitting you’re wrong. But sometimes you have to in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So, today, I admit that I was wrong about Google, Facebook, & surveillance capitalism in general being toxic for our human rights and democracy … it simply cannot be true given how they are endorsed by some of the most well-respected organisations in the world.

@aral I have serious criticisms of Google and Facebook myself. However, I don't agree with your criticism of Conservancy/Copyleft Conf. Conservancy has actually lost a lot of money over the years because it has stuck to its principles when sponsors preferred that it do something different (eg drop copyleft enforcement). That's one reason they started doing community fundraising drives, because they wouldn't have had the money to keep going otherwise *because* they stuck to their principles.

@aral I certainly agree with criticisms of surveillance capitalist organizations. However there is another problem: the commons is frequently exploited by large corporations that take and take and take from FOSS and don't give back.

If a company is willing to give some money to support free software orgs, no strings attached other than their name appearing on the site, I think that's something we should encourage *more* of. Many companies are taking and not giving, and that sucks.

@aral I do agree that much FOSS *software* is working too hard to bend over backwards for proprietary software integration where decentralized tech integration should be preferred and prioritized however.

@cwebber @aral

I have long advocated a middle-ground here:

**Whenever you compromise your values, APOLOGIZE for it**

Instead of insisting on absolute purity, we can accept that real-world trade-offs happen. But don't present it as normal business, ASK to be excused and explain the situation.

In this case, SFC etc. should have some qualifier every place they reference the Google or Microsoft sponsorships. Something like an *acknowledgement* that this is a compromise and link to a statement.

@wolftune @cwebber @aral

They can't say that.

It's like saying: sorry, we are organizing a conference on with the worst enemy of copyleft out there, but hey this is not , this is serious stuff and you can trust we will be serious about exploring all the ways we can change copyleft to maximize , even if they don't want we to.

@Shamar @cwebber @aral

They can totally say something like: "We acknowledge that many practices of these companies go against the goals of Copyleft, and we recognize the concerns people have about the conflicts in our accepting their support as sponsors of our conference." and link to a longer statement about why they still felt the compromise was still the right decision.

I'm not asking anyone to deny anything. It's totally feasible to *admit* and *explain* when we make compromises.

@wolftune

if they feel their decision is the right call, why should they have to apologise?
Maybe instead just note that they are happy to compromise on their core issue and thus should not be trusted to defend this core issue?

@Shamar @cwebber @aral

@oshwm @Shamar @cwebber @aral

en.wiktionary.org/wiki/apology

There is *nothing* about apologizing that implies an action is *necessarily* the wrong decision. There are TONS of cases in life in which the right decision involves a compromise *and* an apology, which means an explanation, a justification, and an acknowledgement of the problems and harms the compromise involves.

You have no basis to assume that anyone compromising is "happy" to compromise. That's a condescending way to think.

@Shamar

I can be quite pessimistic, but I don't think this is so hopeless a case. People can and should acknowledge conflicts-of-interest.

@conservancy could very well admit that Google presence and sponsorship **does** present a conflict-of-interest.

Although *avoiding* conflicts-of-interest is *preferred*, the next-best step to reducing their influence is to *acknowledge* them…

@oshwm @cwebber @conservancy @aral

@Shamar @conservancy @oshwm @cwebber @aral

Right, Google has influence here no matter what… so what is the harm of taking their money and having them "sponsor"? They don't get actual inside decision-making, but they *do* get conflict-of-interest positioning and the PR of being associated. And it's precisely *those* things that can be at least *partly* mediated by public apology, especially one that is right there tied to the sponsor listing.

@wolftune

When you are compromising to such an extent on your Core Issue, your very reason for being then surely you would be better off cancelling the event with as much publicity as possible and stating that you cannot raise the funds to stage the event in an honest way.

@Shamar @cwebber @aral

@Shamar @oshwm @wolftune @cwebber @bob @conservancy Yeah, not going to happen. Richard told me he isn’t going to pull FSF sponsorship from the event or criticise them for it either as he doesn’t want to anger them (Conservancy).

@aral

Mr Stallman doesn't appear to have as strongly held views as he would like everyone to think.

@Shamar @wolftune @cwebber @bob @conservancy

@bob

Folks should bear in mind that RMS is mostly playing a necessary role when in public.

And I'm not just talking about Saint iGNUcius.

@cwebber @Shamar @conservancy @aral @wolftune @oshwm

@Shamar

Your description of RMS is quite off by my view (and I've heard him speak multiple times, had several conversations personally and read all his work).

RMS doesn't have the absurd idea that software-freedom should be *exclusive* to programmers or that all people *must* be programmers, but he absolutely wants everyone to have the capacity to use those freedoms if they wish or to find friends or hire programmers etc.

RMS wants freedom for engineers and not all? No, that's plain wrong.

@Shamar Clarification: RMS and I do not hold the same views (I *only* referred earlier to his views). But I believe we share your view that programming *should* be taught far and wide. Free software enables anyone because tweaking an existing program is much more trivial than writing a whole new one.

Check out video at gnu.org/education/ — that is not a perspective of someone who thinks programming is only for some people.

RMS promotes general code literacy; you're attacking a straw RMS.

@Shamar

"Everyone should be able to write software" — not absurd

"Free Software only applies to those able to write software" — wrong

What's absurd is any suggestion that most people be more than novice programmers. A basic functional literacy might make sense. Just like everyone should know how to draw or to sing or to do basic scientific-style critical thinking… but we're still going to have most important programming (and most drawing and most science etc) done by a portion of people.

@oshwm

Applying that analysis leaves us not trusting @aral too.

I'm just now picking up this thread again, because, as best I can tell, he's blocked me for noting his own compromises.

The question isn't whether we compromise or not. We do.

The question is, what are we going to do to make it better?

This purist bomb-throwin feeds into the rage machine that so many of us in the fediverse are trying to disentangle ourselves from

mastodon.sdf.org/@deejoe/10140

@wolftune @Shamar @cwebber

@deejoe @oshwm @aral @wolftune @Shamar @cwebber

I do not know @aral well enough to know if I can trust him or not, he certainly makes the right noises - but you know different and I would like to know what he has done that shows how he has compromised on his 'core values' so that I can put him in the same category (in my mind) as @conservancy

As for Rage Machine, maybe it is not a bad thing if we are being misled by so many people and organisations.

@oshwm

You can trust @aral — he's shown long-term consistency, addressed his own issues (moved toward fully-FLO away from Apple).

But the rage-machine concerns are valid. It's one way to reinforce tribalism and manipulate activists. Purism is a witch-hunt style eat-your-own approach. The whole idea of badge-beliefs and of checking whether someone is "one of us" leads to all sorts fo dysfunctions.

That tribalism is exploitable by actual bad actors.

@deejoe @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

@wolftune @oshwm @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

So, I've begun to think about what you might call the "freedom curve", plotted on an axes labelled "freedom" (y) and "reach" (x). I suspect it looks something like an exponential decay, with high freedom plotted at the far left, but with very little reach (let's just say for sake of argument that's where RMS and TdR and a Gideon's Band of others sit). As you move to the right, freedom falls away, but you cover more people.

@wolftune @oshwm @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

Assuming one can influence the shape of the curve, what do you do?

Do you try to increase the overall limits of freedom for the few on the left? I think someone should.

Do you try to increase the integrated freedom, under the curve, by lifting the broad but imperfect freedoms of people further to the right? Yes, that too.

I haven't used this model so much to think about privacy but it might be useful there too.

@Shamar

We can see how @aral handles Apple
in these sorts of discussions--is his stance yours also?

@wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

@Shamar

I totally disagree about Microsoft being not-so-bad a threat.They remain powerful, they aren't embracing software freedom, and their approach to Google is to *try* to outdo them in surveillance-capitalism even.

All these entities, Google included, are mixed in some ways.

@deejoe @aral @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

@Shamar

My main disagreement was with your framing that Microsoft's threat has reduced compared to years ago.

They were more obvious bullies before and are more nuanced now, but we're not going to see an Open Sourcing of Windows. And if that ever happens, it will be because Windows has become just a thin-client front to "cloud" computing SaaSS and such.

Microsoft's legal threats to software-freedom and embrace-extend-extinguish strategy are all still here today.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

My take on what's occurring with Microsoft is that they're transitioning to a new business model. So far as they're concerned the personal computing era is over. From here on out the Azure cloud will manage all the desktops and your OS will be ad supported and monitor your behavior to optimize your user experience. Windows and Azure will remain proprietary, since that ensures the telemetry and content delivery pipeline, but anything else can be "open source" to cut developer costs. You'll be able to tweak some settings on Windows, but everything else will be managed from the cloud. No manual updates. Think ChromeOS, but moreso.

Microsoft will remain hostile, but as a different kind of threat. They'll be nice as pie so long as your open source project runs on Windows, or in a Linux VM running on Windows, Delivered by Azure(TM). Anything else they either won't care about or will be hostile towards.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @conservancy It's also very strange to me to see Apple presented as "not as bad an actor" in regards to *copyleft* as Google in this thread. Apple has lead the way on most of the anti-copyleft sentiment, especially by the apple store's incompatibility with / banning of the GPL. At any rate, as I've said before, "corporations are hydras"... in general, many heads which may act differently, even if being bit is a general concern.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @conservancy I also feel like I have nothing else useful to add to this thread and thus won't say anything more :)

@cwebber

I didn't see any reference to Apple being not-as-bad about copyleft.

Aral has a history of mild Apple apologism along the lines of: if surveillance capitalism died, Apple would still have a legitimate business model (selling hardware) while Google and Facebook would not.

But I didn't see him or anyone else saying Apple was better on copyleft. Maybe I missed something.

@cwebber

For my part, I see no difference between Apple and Google.
As far as individuals who work at a particular company, most are unlikely to be as evil as the company they work for but practise its overall policy or don't feed their families.
This doesn't prevent the outward actions of the company from being evil and thus the rest of us should shun those companies.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @conservancy

Be careful not to allow the ability to avoid conflict-of-interest to become an exclusive privilege.

A great deal of such conflict can be ameliorated with disclosure of the relationship. There's no question about this here, it's been disclosed.

@Shamar @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy

@Shamar @deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy Bullshit. Are you saying all members of #rifle are against regulation? All Googlers are against software freedoms?
Then you've got nothing to say to Trump when he says all Mexicans are rapists. Why can't _some_ people at google be cool and want to support copyleft (whatever that is, I'm out of the loop there, just pissed at the blanket statement like this).

@Shamar @deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy
not exactly. I didn't interject into the conference taking or not taking money (that's what I dnt know about).
What I had a problem with is this: "The answer is no, simply because their business model is in direct contrast with such regulations."
That basically excludes EVERY business.
E.g You mention Trump's money for immigration. Him by name.
All I'm saying is, not all of Google is that guy.

@Shamar
What amuses me the most in this is 'Google won't touch it' is my main reason to use copyleft.

@deejoe

the answer is to stop trying to redefine freedom, privacy, trust etc and stick to the real meaning that everyone is entitled to all these things and any compromise means you are taking them away from everyone.

@wolftune @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

@deejoe

Neither do Google, Facebook, Microsoft, NSA, GCHQ etc

What you think or believe is your business but I think it would be more honest (In my opinion of course) to use different terms than freedom, privacy, trust etc when you are talking about something that is not those things.

@wolftune @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

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