I was wrong about Google and Facebook: there’s nothing wrong with them (so say we all)
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 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.
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.
They can't say that.
It's like saying: sorry, we are organizing a conference on #copyleft with the worst enemy of copyleft out there, but hey this is not #marketing, this is serious stuff and you can trust we will be serious about exploring all the ways we can change copyleft to maximize #FreeSoftware, even if they don't want we to.
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.
But if you want #freedom to talk about something, you don't get money from people whose interests you could hurt.
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
> But there needs to be room for
> compromise in general.
> Absolute purism is a dead-end.
I think that we agree on this.
Still, there should be a link between trust and intellectual honesty: if I don't state what I'm giving back for real, the social norm should still be to distrust me.
Otherwise we move from good sense to common sense to just reach indifference.
Controlling what people can think is the point of being the filter people use to access the noosphere.
It's like if you had #Google glasses always on already so that it can directly influence what you see.
I myself trusted Google a lot.
Years ago I even sent them a resume, and I know a couple of people there who are pretty good people.
But till the beginning of this year, with a seasoned #Google engineer removing my Copyright statements from Harvey without removing my code, ejected me out of my filter bubble.
Able of world wide scale #BrainWashing.
And while you might have the skill to see they are really so dangerous (and controlled by the most powerful military nation of the planet), I guess your first reaction reading these lines will be "hum... ok... Shamar is paranoid"
Guess why? ;-)
@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… https://mobile.twitter.com/aral/status/976738619527397379
@wolftune @Shamar @cwebber … New America fired Barry Lynn when his Open Markets criticised (New America sponsor) Google on antitrust grounds. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/us/politics/anne-marie-slaughter-new-america-google.html
More personally, Linda and I resigned from the Code Club board when we were told not to criticise (sponsor) Google: https://pando.com/2014/08/27/code-club-cofounder-resigns-after-being-ordered-not-to-criticize-google/
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.
@Shamar @wolftune @cwebber @aral Please see https://ecodigital.social/@adfeno/101394970414460497 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.
Do you mean they are completely naive and in good faith?
It's what I want to believe too, but they are severely challenging my suspension of disbelief.
In any case, here we are, as annoying schoolmates that correct the teacher, to remind them that Google presence will hurt and limit the discussion.
@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?
An apology *is* a change. I strongly reject the rhetoric that statements are meaningless. Is this whole conversation meaningless, the complaints meaningless?
I want love to live in a world where everyone feels obligated to make public acknowledgements of any ethical or political compromises. That would make a huge difference.
Even when politicians are liars, the pretense that honesty matters has consequences. The current attack on that pretense is seriously harmful.
"what we are doing is wrong and we are going to keep doing it" is a TERRIBLE apology and everyone knows it.
An apology is not just "this is wrong", it's a *justification* / explanation / acknowledgement. The norm I advocate requires an *explanation* of why the compromise is continuing (if it is).
Would you be up for steel-manning my views instead of straw-manning?
Every example I can think of in which a large corporation is heavily involved in an open standard which manages to gain meaningful traction ends in some major iteration of that technology being a massive corporate funnel for them (Android is the prime example of this: it’s like if you had to buy Coca Cola every time you bought a drinking glass). So what’s the hope here? That these projects will be able to use this corporate money as a launchpad? It’s never happened.
One could argue we’ve gotten a lot of developer tools this way, and while I think that’s true, their impact on the average non-developer in their everyday life is nothing compared to the massive international negative impact of the company’s business (I’d happily give up my knowledge of React if you told me it would be harder for the Myanmar government to spread propaganda).
I think we are very inclined to talk ideologically or in abstract about massive corporations funding FOSS projects and conferences, but one need only look at reality to see this has been going on for decades and things like privacy and openness have very much not made progress (privacy has almost certainly gotten worse at an accelerated rate).
There is a status quo being maintained. The humane methods haven’t fallen out of any of the corporate money being thrown around over the years. It seems unlikely to me that this would change when things are as bad as ever.
If anything, the absurdity of Google or Facebook being involved in any way whatsoever with privacy conferences should be, at a bare minimum, leading to boycotts (but now I’m being unrealistic about the demographic of people in tech.)
The only thing they cannot afford is a world where people modify and self-host software because they need to control the software to get the data.
Google is not giving back: it's calming down the discussion so that people won't start discussing better ways to grant people the right to self-host whole applications not just single programs and licenses that make this possible.
I don't have a strong opinion if accepting money from tech giants is bad, but a few things to note:
- putting a banner on a website which is popular among tech authorities is a huge string attached
- relying on a particular money source is enough to try not to antagonize people behind it or even do what they say
- even mozilla promotes google - who should I take example from?
- everyone use gmail - why would I bother? my email will be read anyway, so I'll set up gmail
>Some of the most evil corporations on the planet have given back significant open source projects. Hard to say whether they take more than they give.
But that is too narrow of a focus. Giving a 'handful' of developers these tools and frameworks which are in large part the same ones that allow them to roll out ever more extractive business practices to the rest of humanity and increase their dominance.
There is a crisis in (FL)OSS and it needs to be solved.. somehow.
@humanetech @bamfic @cwebber @aral there's also the consideration that software influences how people think about what's possible, and by "supporting" free software, these companies are indirectly influencing what people think software can and can't do. which shapes their own market and profits. witness IBM and Google's marketing war over who had the best AI/ML, which took place in software too.
@humanetech Traditionally, the Free Software movement has cared only about the freedom of the software itself, without restriction of what it's used for (as long as the license is respected, of course).
So the only problem that traditional FOSS advocates have with those companies is that they use open-source frameworks to create proprietary products, not how ethical those products are otherwise. @bamfic @cwebber @aral
@bamfic @cwebber @aral Open sourcing that kind of things is probably better for them because they become part of the community so they are automatically tested in many places, issues are opened, pull requests appear and so on.
Open sourcing that kind of tools reduces the costs of maintaining the software.
So: Looks like they gave that away but it was good for them.
Without mentioning that they get some respect for that for no reason but their own benefit... free advertisement...
@bamfic @cwebber @aral but there’s always a hidden reason why they decide to give. It’s usually because the free thing they give makes it easy to use their service. Or its advertising themselves to make them look like good guys. No businesses of that size would just decide to spend money just for fun.
@cwebber @aral what about self-censorship though? You don't need a seat at the table to exert control. Fear of losing money is a huge motivator. That's not a complete "no-strings" arrangement. An anonymous donation would be the structurally more sound way to go, but who would even consider that in a world obsessed with simulacra?
I understand that, and in a lot of cases is OK. But also consider that when you give a lot, there's a fine line between supporting and manipulating, like in politics. When that starts happening it's not so transparent, hence the justified mistrust. Besides, this is not some random player.
Also, how can a company "take a lot and not give back", if the license is properly free (i.e. GPL)? They also contribute a lot, I mean.
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