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 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 #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.

@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.


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


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.

@wolftune @oshwm @cwebber

This is a good point too, bmand maybe that this is what @conservancy will do, actually.

They would be careful to recognise the issues about #SurveillanceCapitalism (sure that few would find the apology on #Google search) maybe with a direct response to @aral, but they won't, under any circumstance acknowledge that Google presence at #CopyleftConf would inhibit free speech there... they simply cannot.


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

@wolftune @conservancy @oshwm @cwebber @aral

I don't know.
In abstract, I would agree.
But really: we are talking about Google.

They would influence the CopyleftConf even from the outside! Imagine what they can do inside!

It's really the single things they cannot afford: a strong copyleft with a wide reach that force them to free their services.

Think if someone propose to adopt the #HackingLicense as #GPLv4!
Must be Unthinkable!

@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 @oshwm @cwebber @aral

> what's the harm of having them as sponsor?

Do you mean that #Google is not much good at #marketing optimization? :-D

I'm not in the #Ads business, but it's naive to think they would spend money on certain Ads if there is no reason to: it's their job to optimise these things!

It's naive to believe that @conservancy won't be "influenced" by Google's money for the speakers' selection, for example.


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

@oshwm @wolftune @cwebber @aral

This is not going to happen.

The #fediverse doesn’t have such powe.

Even if the whole Fediverse boosted that #FreeSoftware cannot get #Google money and preserve #freedom, that would not go mainstram.

OTOH @conservancy cancelling #CopyleftConf because THEY recognise Google would inhibit #FreeSpeech would shake Free Software from the fundaments.

It's naive to hope for this.

@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).


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


@Shamar @wolftune @cwebber @bob @conservancy


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

@oshwm @aral @wolftune @cwebber @bob @conservancy

Tbh I think it's not a matter of #money, for #RMS.

In a way he might even agree with Google on the kinds of upper bounds to put on #copyleft.

He doesn't think everyone can program and should be taught to, so he doesn't really work for the core #freedom of #FreeSoftware (study and modify) to be for everybody, but for engineers (and #Google is full of engineers!)


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.


I'm sorry if I came out excessively harsh.

I don't think RMS is an elitist that want to sell as freedom the power for programmers.

He is simply the son of his country and epoch.

But the point is that what you and RMS (in total good faith!) consider "absurd", I see as inevitable.

#Programming is exactly like writing: a precondition to #citizenship.

Pascal, HTML, Python were explorations of this idea that computing should be simple enough to be a method of expression..


...early explorations that were abandoned too early.

Projects like Scratch, IMHO, are somewhat off this goal: they seem more a pursuit for cheap labor than tools to distribute a deep understanding of Informatics (but I might be wrong on this, it's just my impression as a father of a user).

But if you care about #freedom today you wouldn't say that "not everybody should be able to write because nt everyone has a talent for it".
(to paraphrase RMS).


Yet 5000 years ago, mass alphabetization would have been considered "absurd" by Egyptians given the effort required to learn how to write.

Fortunately we can all write today, and if I told you: "don't teach your kids to write, they will find someone they trust to write and read for them" you would find THAT absurd.

So to me, #RMS is plain wrong on this.

He is "moderate" but in good faith.
Yet he is (slighly) missing the point of #FreeSoftware (that #Google got plenty).

@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.


I'm not attacking him, and I'm happy if he agree with me on this!

But those words were from an interview he gave (and I saw similar arguments before, and I used to agree until I realised the implications): newleftreview.org/II/113/richa
(Search for "talent" in that page)


OTOH, you are not the first to qualify as "absurd" the idea that everyone should be able to write software.

Again, I'm not attacking you in any way: I simply don't agree.

#FreeSoftware enable those who know.
Which is great!

Without Stallman there wouldn't be #Debian and without Debian I wouldn't know #Linux (and I wouldn't be a programmer either).
RMS and GNU made me possible! ;-)

But we need to move on: not just enable, but #innovate towards #simplicity and #teach.


"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.


I live in a zone of Piedmont (Italy) which has been declared as a patrimony of humanity from UNESCO.

Each hill provides an unique perspective and moving a couple of meters can really change your whole perspective.

From where I look, I see things differently.
We will always have great programmers that everyone want to read and execute on their own hardware, but the difference from an average programmer will be similar to that between a novelist and a secretary: not much.

@aral @oshwm @wolftune @cwebber @bob @conservancy

I won't tell you that I told you but... oh wait! :-D

I'm just surprised that #RMS didn't saw this coming: he is very smart and focused on free software, he invented #copyleft and spread it...

Maybe he is just too moderate, after all.

He is transparent that he would work with the #Devil to spread #FreeSoftware in #Hell, so #surveillance is not a big issue.. ;-)

@oshwm @wolftune @cwebber @aral

Indeed... that's my conclusion too.

They are always ready to compromise.


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


@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.


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.

@deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber

I like the approach but you definitely need more dimensions to describe the system.

Yet if @aral is a saint or not is totally unrelevant here.

Is he right about #SurveillanceCapitalism?
I think so.

Is he right that @conservancy should not accept #Google money?
Again I think so, but we can discuss this.

Yet for sure NOT for a conference on #Copyleft!


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

Can #Rifle sponsor gun regulation?
Can #Malboro sponsor tobacco regulation?
Can #Monsanto sponsor GMO regulation?

The answer is no, simply because their business model is in direct contrast with such regulations.

Can #Google sponsor #Copyleft?
No. It's totally the same.

So, even beyond #surveillance, this decision is either incredibly naive or plain malicious.


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

@wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

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

What do you mean?

He seem pretty critical about Apple's hypocrisy too. I don’t like Apple but I don't care much about what they do: I simply don't buy their over expensive products.
Today they are not that threat to #FreeSoftware: the worse they are doing against freedom is #LLVM, but this turned to be relevant only because of the stubbornness of RMS with GCC.

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

Even #Microsoft, in this time and age, is a secondary threat to free software.

They were a problem in 2000, under #Ballmer direction when #FreeSoftware was not mainstream yet.

But now they are surrending.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a opensource #Windows in a decade or two.


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

But #Google is a totally different enemy.

They are not just trying to defend their market and business model as Microsoft used to do.

They are trying to co-opt #FreeSoftware.

They are not working against a present threat to them, but to orient the future.

They are an existential threat to #hacker #freedom, though "embrace, confuse, corrupt and extinguish".


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

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

I said it's a secondary threat not that they are our friends.

As far as I know Microsoft (quite a bit as I have to cope with them way too often) they have no hope to stands with Google.
At least not now.


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.


Yes, maybe... but they are secondary if compared to the smartest and more subtle strategy of Google.

They have lost ground, even as a threat! :-D

Look at WSL. Look at Edge.
(Nokia? no it's like shooting on the red cross)

They are surrending.
They are coping Google without being Google.

They might become a serious issue again in the future, but right now they are trying to grasp what they got wrong.

@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.

@bob @deejoe @cwebber @conservancy @aral @wolftune @oshwm

Yes, this is what I mean when I say they could become a serious problem: I've read your analysis before and it's pretty reasonable.

But there's no way to know if they will succeed with this transition.

They tried something similar with Nokia and now they run Android.

@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 :)


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.


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

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

As long as their market share remain unchanged, #Apple will be by far less relevant to #Copyleft (and to #Surveillance) than Google or even Microsoft.

They are not our friends and we should be careful to not get fooled to consider them as such.
But we should be aware of the difference between our adversaries: confusion always helps bad players (see #FLOSS vs FS).

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

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

After 20 years of Berlusconi, we are still paying for the demage he did to Italy (on every level, cultural, ethical, legal, economical...) and we will pay the fee for a long time more.
Hell, I'm afraid it will take centuries to resort.

There is only a way to cope with conflicts of interest: to forbid them, to prevent them to occurs at any cost with no exception.

@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).

@zladuric @deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy

So basically you don't know what you are talking about but urged to interject?
Well you are welcome, but maybe give a search to "copyleft".

Your post is a non-consequitur: whatever single employees think, Rifle (and Google, and Malboro..) are against any regulation that cannot be exploited to safeguard their marketshare and business.

@zladuric @deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy

Google engineers should be welcome to any Conference according to the relevance of what they have to say.

Google money and brand on a Copyleft conference are worse than Trump money and face on a conference on Immigration, because Trump is highly hypocrital and say whatever please his people while Google is structurally incompatible.

@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.

@zladuric @deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy


Many businesses exist because of regulation.
All businesses have no issues with the regulations that do not affect their business model or processes.
Some are smart enough to turn regulations as entry barriers against their competitors.

So not all companies are at odd with all regulations.

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


Yes, that's one of the main advantage of AGPLv3 for me too.

But it's not enough to grant users the right to self-host the applications they use... that's why we need to move forward... and why their presence in #CopyleftConf is totally out of place.

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