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.

@Shamar

You're nicely expressing the critique here. Conflicts-of-interest are serious.

I'm not myself arguing that the compromise in this case is the right decision. But both now and generally, I argue for a social norm where we expect apologies for *all* compromises of values. We can still disagree about which compromises are right or justified etc. Some compromises are just bad. But there needs to be room for compromise in general. Absolute purism is a dead-end

@cwebber @aral @conservancy

@Shamar

I sincerely doubt someone will call you paranoid unless they've been living under a rock.

@wolftune @cwebber @aral @conservancy

@wolftune @Shamar @cwebber This assumes that we take it at face value that Google, etc., are benevolent entities that would keep sponsoring these conferences/orgs even if they criticised them. That’s definitely how they want to be seen but my experience says otherwise. When (sponsor) Google had to follow my keynote at NextM, their representative was fuming and told the organisers to change the line up for the next event… mobile.twitter.com/aral/status

@wolftune @Shamar @cwebber … New America fired Barry Lynn when his Open Markets criticised (New America sponsor) Google on antitrust grounds. nytimes.com/2017/09/01/us/poli

More personally, Linda and I resigned from the Code Club board when we were told not to criticise (sponsor) Google: pando.com/2014/08/27/code-club

It’s all well and good to assume that these companies are benevolent and that their.m money comes without strings but it’s just not true.

@aral @cwebber @Shamar @wolftune I'd forgotten about the Code Club thing. That's a good example of how sponsorship isn't just "free cash" but the sponsor is buying influence over what can or can't be discussed within the community.
@Shamar @aral @wolftune @cwebber Right. It's not that the sponsor directly orders this or that to happen. It's that once your event depends critically upon the sponsor then anything critical of them becomes something to be removed, or at least not talked about.

The massive centralization around Google and Facebook and their influence not just on software developers and web standards but the whole of society is something worth discussing and criticizing.

@Shamar @wolftune @cwebber @aral Please see ecodigital.social/@adfeno/1013 and I also advise to study how US-based charities work, as they aren't simply nonprofits. They are less corruptible even when sponsored by for-profits or having these as patrons.

@adfeno @Shamar @wolftune @cwebber I advise you to study how institutional corruption works. Think: Why do lung cancer charities not have tobacco companies as sponsors? Why do organisations that exist to promote healthy diets not have McDonald’s or Coca Cola as sponsors? Why does Greenpeace not have Exxon Mobil as a sponsor?

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