#357 Consider signing the open letter to RMS and the FSF
Closed: resolved a month ago by bcotton. Opened 2 months ago by lionirdeadman.

Here is the link to the Open letter : https://rms-open-letter.github.io/


@spot and I already signed as Fedora Council members. I assume this ask is made to other Fedora Council members too. I encourage others to consider signing the open letter.

For others and potentially to sign to represent Fedora as a whole like X.org did. That might be too much to ask though.

I signed on as an individual. I would support the Council signing on as a group.

@bookwar said in chat:

I'd like to see statement from FSF explaining what has actually happened before signing anything

I think that's a reasonable request. I don't see anything on the FSF's blog at this point. The only public statement I've seen from the FSF is a tweet saying that no one from LibrePlanet knew in advance.

He has already been listed on the FSF site : https://www.fsf.org/about/staff-and-board

Kat has said that they didn't support the decision and that the announcement was unplanned (not sure if that means even Board didn't know) : https://mastodon.social/@mindspillage/105940851460229358

I'm not sure an announcement other than that clip from LibrePlanet will be made and could be made other than his removal at this point in time with the amount of backlash, to be quite honest.

@bcotton wrote…
I would support the Council signing on as a group.

+1.

My lesson from the #BlackLivesMatter ticket is that in a situation like this, you don't wait to act.

@lionirdeadman Thanks for the additional data

I am +1 on signing.

I don't like how the open letter is written, but I support the main message.

I think if FSF decided to pay Stallman a certain pension, but keeping him out of FSF leadership roles I would support that. But bringing him back to the board discredits everything they've done.

I'm +1 for every person to vote by their own.

think, as I stated in different matters before, that the project itself should stay away from political matters. Why? Because it could lead to:

  1. Misrepresentation of the community: To know if we represent the whole community, we should at least do a survey
  2. Bad marketing: The project taking political stands could be published as we being in favour of X or Y group.

That's my thought. I'm 0 on taking it as a vote for the project.

think, as I stated in different matters before, that the project itself should stay away from political matters.

Free Software is a political matter.

Furthermore, I believe that political matters can be important to serve the "Friends" part of the Fedora Foundations.

It may also be important for the Fedora's vision :

Fedora is our people, and we want the statement to include our vision of a healthy community.

I don't think we can sign anything on behalf of the community. Community doesn't delegate this kind of power to the Council. And I believe every member of the community can have the conversation with themselves about the topic.

We could have signed as a Fedora Council group or individually.

Also, the more i read the more I see the open letter itself as poorly written. As I said above, I agree with the main ask, but not with the how it is formulated. And I am a bit concerned with what I am signing here, the ask or the statements.

I don't support hate towards RMS, I support that he shouldn't be in the FSF board and FSF shouldn't have placed him there the way they did.

in general in the past, Fedora has avoided making official community statements about other organizations except as they affect us technically. The closest thing I can think of is when we wrote Mozilla (as FESCo, I believe) about extension signing — clearly a very different kind of situation. I think that the Council could make such a statement, but we would have to do so with widespread community backing.

Certainly this baffling decision by the FSF board makes me less willing to work with the FSF, both personally and on behalf of Fedora. There is a practical consequence already, without us signing anything or making a statement.

I believe in the capacity for people to change; I think people can learn, grow, and make restitution and amends. That doesn't always qualify one for a return to prominence or leadership... but in this case, that's not even relevant, as I don't see any sign that that's happened or been asked for by the FSF. That's pretty troubling.

On this letter in specific: I am not a member of the FSF, and we as Fedora do not have an official relationship. I'm not sure if calling for the resignation of the entire board is the right thing or not — honestly, I need some time to think about that and would like to see more about what happened here. But I am certainly sympathetic to any Council members who want to sign as individuals and list their affiliation (the letter says "For individual signatures, institutional affiliation is provided for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement."), especially for those who consider themselves part of the Free Software movement and feel betrayed here.

I guess... here's my question to all of you. What do you see as the import of Fedora signing this letter as a project? Is it for Fedora, or is it to use the weight of Fedora in hopes of influencing others? In the past, we've focused our efforts on the former, on improving ourselves: technically, and as an open source and free software project, and by working to be an amazing and welcoming place for people of all cultures, races, sexes, genders, backgrounds, brain chemistry, abilities. It is possible for us to decide to move more to the the latter, to greater advocacy regarding injustices we see in other organizations related to our project vision. If we do that, let's not kid ourselves: that's going to require directed effort. It absolutely will attract people whose sole goal is to use Fedora as a platform and who are not actually interested in Fedora's own success, and it will attract people who primarily want to argue, and this will take energy from making Fedora better.

So... we can decide do that, but my preference is to talk pragmatically about what this means for us. For example, in the past we have consulted with the FSF for their guidance on issues related to Free Software as a movement. We have sponsored and officially attended FSF events like LibrePlanet. We don't need to do those things.

What do you see as the import of Fedora signing this letter as a project? Is it for Fedora, or is it to use the weight of Fedora in hopes of influencing others?

I would wager both.

First, I believe that this sends as a signal that we are a welcoming place for all which I believe is good and in-line with the vision of the project.

Secondly, I do think that Fedora signing this letter would help influence others to do the same which I believe will help others come forward. However, I agree that it is likely that Fedora will receive backlash from people who like Stallman. I believe that Fedora signing will likely act as a distributing act for other projects who receive the same backlash.

The Fedora Council should sign this as a unified entity. Less talk, more signing.

The FSF issued a brief statement. Personally, I find it entirely underwhelming.

Board member Kat Walsh announced her resignation as a result

The Document Foundation issued a statement.

If we want to make a statement, and the consensus is that we want to stand up for our values, I see our choices as:

  1. Signing the open letter as the Fedora Council
  2. Writing our own statement

As we've learned, writing our own statement is a long and painful process. On the other hand, it allows us to focus more on the "these are our values" aspect.

I don't think we have any disagreement about the core matter; I think it's pretty clear that we do want to stand up here. I am lightly leaning towards writing our own statement as the best approach. I sympathize with David's point but "less talk" has never been the Fedora way. :)

I am ok with a Fedora statement, but have a deadline for it. Draft it, accept comments, run with the end result after edits. We can waffle forever on the specific wording, but then we'll never get our message out there.

Okay, I've put together a draft. Please comment by...let's say 2359 UTC Monday.

Okay, I've put together a draft. Please comment by...let's say 2359 UTC Monday.

Commented.

From comments on the statement draft, it seems that more discussion is needed to come to a set of actions that Fedora council would do in relation to RMS' return at the FSF. I've decided to take it upon myself to make a procedure as to come to a set of actions (or inaction if that is what is decided) in a timely manner and because I did not see anyone else take it upon themselves to do this.

My personal position is that that the entire board should be removed, that RMS should be removed from all leadership positions including GNU Project and that Fedora should cease supporting the FSF and participating in events with the FSF until these changes have been made as per the open letter.

I believe that each council member should state their personal position before discussion as to avoid asking each one's position during discussion (if there are disagreements).

Fedora should cease supporting the FSF

We don't support FSF as far as I know

and participating in events with the FSF until these changes have been made

Do you mean stop participating in FSF-run events (e.g. LibrePlanet) or does that also include events that the FSF sponsors or exhibits at?

I had misread this phrase from mattdm :

We have sponsored and officially attended FSF events like LibrePlanet.

In the context of the Fedora project then, it would be FSF-run events and those that RMS exhibits at as per the letter :

Do not speak at or attend FSF events, or events that welcome RMS and his brand of intolerance.

I support not participating in FSF-run events or events where RMS is a speaker.

My position(s):

  • I support the position of the open letter. That is, removal of the entire FSF board and removal of RMS from all FSF leadership positions, including the GNU project.

  • I support Fedora discontinuing sponsorship in any capacity (sponsoring in name, paying for community members to attend, sending swag, etc) and discontinuing participation in any capacity of FSF-run events and any events where RMS is a prominent participant (keynote, exhibitor, etc).

My position aligns exactly with dcantrell.

I support not participating in FSF-run events or events where Stallman is speaking or otherwise a prominent participant.

I am also underwhelmed with the FSF board's statement; it doesn't address any of my concerns. That plus Kat Walsh's resignation makes me personally inclined to ask for the resignation of the rest of the board (and perhaps her reinstatement, if she wants it). However, I am not completely comfortable with taking that position as the Fedora Council rather than individually — I agree with the statement in Ben's draft. I am willing to have my mind changed here, though; I hear strong support for that position.

I have another question; we refer prominently to the FSF at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing:Main, and in the past, we have consulted them (informally, not in a "consulting" sense) about free software issues. What do we do about that now?

I have another question; we refer prominently to the FSF at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing:Main, and in the past, we have consulted them (informally, not in a "consulting" sense) about free software issues. What do we do about that now?

About the wiki page: there's not really much we can do. I suppose we could remove the "FSF Free?" column from the tables, but as that's a statement of fact and not an endorsement, it doesn't seem like a worthwhile effort.

As for consulting them...I think there are enough other minds in the free software community to consult with when we have questions.

...makes me personally inclined to ask for the resignation of the rest of the board (and perhaps her reinstatement, if she wants it). However, I am not completely comfortable with taking that position as the Fedora Council rather than individually

Exactly. I'm strongly in favor of this in my individual capacity (and have already signed the open letter myself), but I don't like the precedent of Fedora telling other projects how to govern themselves. I think it's appropriate for us to make affirmative statements of our values and point out when prominent projects are hostile to those.

but I don't like the precedent of Fedora telling other projects how to govern themselves. I think it's appropriate for us to make affirmative statements of our values and point out when prominent projects are hostile to those.

I personally think this particular action would be an exception rather than the rule. I can't think of anything like this happening previously. It's also worth mentioning that the FSF's governance is particularly important for anyone using "or-later" licenses. I'd like to hear if there are actually other "events" similar to this one since I must admit I am ignorant on that subject.

I think it needs to be clear that we are calling to not attend or sponsor events with the FSF and RMS involvement. It happened in the past (Eric Raymond at SELF if I remember correctly) and close funding without explaining why, just because we decided to not fund this kind of events, is quite rude.

For me, as event planner and organizer, it would be better to have a clear policy of what events we should and shouldn't work on.

Red Hat just issued a statement which includes suspending funding of the FSF and FSF-hosted events. I have asked if that precludes Fedora and other Red Hat-sponsored communities from sponsoring FSF events.

Red Hat just issued a statement which includes suspending funding of the FSF and FSF-hosted events. I have asked if that precludes Fedora and other Red Hat-sponsored communities from sponsoring FSF events.

For what it's worth, if this were a very different situation and we as a community disagreed with a Red Hat directive about our choices of community sponsorships, I would definitely go to bat for us. But I think that's very much a moot point here.

I have asked if that precludes Fedora and other Red Hat-sponsored communities from sponsoring FSF events.

As expected, Fedora is free to make its own decision in this matter.

There are a few things I'd like to note with regard to some of the concerns mentioned in this thread.

I believe signing the letter as the Council is still something that would align with Fedora's mission. The current Fedora vision statement is:

The Fedora Project envisions a world where everyone benefits from free and open source software built by inclusive, welcoming, and open-minded communities.

With this in mind, I would argue that the FSF, in its current state, is essentially working against this vision. This was, of course, partly addressed above, in the thoughts on the perceived importance of signage. However, I do not see this as being something that would promote a push using the "weight" of Fedora.

To be entirely honest, I do not see any individual signer of the letter as having particular weight at this point. As of the writing of this comment, there are over 2400 individual signatures and over 40 organization signatures, which is enormous growth from the original 10 or so when this discussion began. The power from the letter does not come from a sum of weights of the organizations and individuals within, but rather, it comes from the full unison of all the signers together. In other words, Fedora is not putting a distinct project weight behind this letter, any more than it already would be by suspending funding. Fedora would instead be joining a unified front for the advancement of its stated vision.

Therefore, due to the letter's community nature, signing it would be significantly more powerful than an individual statement, while avoiding singling out Fedora as a potential platform for people who are more focused on debates than improvement.

In addition, I would like to add that words without action are essentially empty words. Statements on their own have no power, which is why the letter includes the goals of reshaping the board. However, any action Fedora performs in response would essentially move it closer to the letter's ambitions regardless, thus negating any perceived benefit gained from refraining to sign.

EDIT: I'd like to add that it also seems over 40 people associated with Fedora in some way have signed the letter, thus it could be said that there is already significant community support behind it.

  • I support removal of the entire FSF board and removal of RMS from all FSF leadership positions, including the GNU project.

  • I support Fedora discontinuing sponsorship in any capacity (sponsoring in name, paying for community members to attend, sending swag, etc) and discontinuing participation in any capacity of FSF-run events and any events where RMS is a prominent participant (keynote, exhibitor, etc).

But I don't think we can sign the letter on behalf of Fedora project. There are several reasons why one wouldn't want to sign it even if one supports the Fedora Project mission and values. And even if one supports the ask to FSF and is against Stallman as the leader of it.

We don't have a process in place, like Debian's GR (https://www.debian.org/vote/2021/vote_002) to setup a good foundation to this decision. And I don't think we should decide on our own on this matter.

I think we should issue our own statement with similar ask but without the accusations.

But I would also prefer this statement to mention explicitly that we will stop our connections to FSF (sponsorship, speakers, etc) until the issue is resolved and we see commitment from FSF to respect the values we stand for.

I'm not really looking for any "perceived benefit gained from refraining to sign". That seems very ... score-keeping, I guess ... for the whole thing? I also don't think calling for resignations is actually action. Cutting funding and discontinuing collaborations is action.

But I don't think we can sign the letter on behalf of Fedora project.

I believe that signing as Fedora Council for the meantime would still be appreciated.

We don't have a process in place, like Debian's GR (https://www.debian.org/vote/2021/vote_002) to setup a good foundation to this decision.

Is there been plans to have such a setup for Fedora Project decisions?

I also don't think calling for resignations is actually action. Cutting funding and discontinuing collaborations is action.

Well, calling for resignations does push for an actionable thing to resolve the issue. I think that has value especially in deciding when Fedora would fund and collaborate with the FSF again.

I am not a council member but I wanted to comment:

@bookwar I have reservations about the accusations attached to the statement as well. I didn't agree with how that was done. I weighed the cost / benefit of signing it although I didn't agree with it 100% and wished it could have been worded a little differently, because my friends who were former FSF staffers asked me to and I wanted to support them and current FSF staffers. That was a personal judgment I made for myself.

I would also note that Red Hat did not sign it as an organization and made their own statement, and following that model could be as effective especially given the number of Fedora contributors who called out their Fedora affiliation in their signatures.

I'm not really looking for any "perceived benefit gained from refraining to sign". That seems very ... score-keeping, I guess ... for the whole thing?

In retrospect, my wording here was a bit confusing. This was in response to:

It is possible for us to decide to move more to the the latter, to greater advocacy regarding injustices we see in other organizations related to our project vision. If we do that, let's not kid ourselves: that's going to require directed effort. It absolutely will attract people whose sole goal is to use Fedora as a platform and who are not actually interested in Fedora's own success, and it will attract people who primarily want to argue, and this will take energy from making Fedora better.

as I would argue that these potential problems are not likely to arise due to this single signage, thus the benefits of signing would outweigh the risks. (It's admittedly a bit score-keeping, but I personally find that to be a useful method of weighing options.)

I also don't think calling for resignations is actually action. Cutting funding and discontinuing collaborations is action.

As mentioned by another above, the two would arguably go hand in hand together. Cutting funding or discontinuing collaborations would be the action, but the calls for resignations would provide an end goal for the action.

We're on the week 2 now. We need to do something. Continued inaction here is bad.

Instead of signing as the 'Fedora Project', we should sign as the Fedora Council. It's true we lack a GR mechanism like Debian, but that's fine. The Fedora Council can collectively decide to sign and make a statement as an elected body in Fedora.

I believe there are two things for the council to do this week:

  • Sign the open letter as the Fedora Council
  • Post a statement explaining the Fedora Council position

Again, this needs to happen this week.

We're on the week 2 now. We need to do something. Continued inaction here is bad.

It's not inaction. Consensus-building takes time.

Since there seems to be general agreement that we should withhold funding/participation from FSF events, I have updated my draft, reproduced in it's current state below. Thanks to Matthew and Marie for helping work through the wording and to everyone who has provided feedback so far.

This will be on the agenda for Thursday's Council meeting, with the goal of having approval or rejection by the end of that meeting. Conveniently, that will be about a week since the ticket was opened, which is in line with our voting process.

Restating the Fedora Project values

The Fedora Project envisions a world where everyone benefits from free and open source software built by inclusive, welcoming, and open-minded communities.

We care about free software, but free software is not just bits and bytes. Fedora is our people, and our vision includes healthy community. A healthy community requires that we be welcoming and inclusive. For those in our community who have experienced harassment of any kind, this past week has been painful and exhausting.

There is no room for harrassment, bullying, or other forms of abuse in Fedora. We take our Code of Conduct seriously in order to ensure a welcoming community.

Many in the free and open source software world have been taken aback that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has allowed Richard Stallman to rejoin their Board of Directors given his history of abuse and harassment. The Fedora Council does not interfere with the governance of other projects. The FSF is allowed to govern itself in whatever manner it sees fit. This is an exceptional case due to the FSF's stewardship of the GPL family of licenses, which are critical for the work we do.

In keeping with our values, we will stop providing funding or attendance to any FSF-sponsored events and any events at which Richard Stallman is a featured speaker or exhibitor.

Excellent technical contribution is not enough. We expect all members of our community to uphold the Friends value.

-- The Fedora Council

I don't mean to overreact. However, there are now 49 organizations that have signed the open letter. Red Hat has also made a public statement. So I see this going on and wonder what is taking us so long. Apologies if my post came across as alarmist.

The revised draft looks good. I do still want to see the Fedora Council sign the open letter in addition to posting the above response.

Thanks.

I made a few more edits to improve clarity based on feedback from @kevin in IRC.

In today's meeting, the Council agreed the Fedora Council will not sign the open letter (although individual members may at their discretion). We will publish an independent statement of our values and withhold funding and attendance to events where Richard Stallman is featured and orgs where he has a leadership role, including FSF.

The text below will publish to Fedora Magazine on Friday 2 April under the title "Fedora Council statement on Richard Stallman rejoining FSF Board"

The Fedora Project envisions a world where everyone benefits from free and open source software built by inclusive, welcoming, and open-minded communities.

We care about free software, but free software is not just bits and bytes. Fedora is our people, and our vision includes healthy community. A healthy community requires that we be welcoming and inclusive. For those in our community who have experienced harassment of any kind, this past week has been painful and exhausting.

There is no room for harassment, bullying, or other forms of abuse in Fedora. We take our Code of Conduct seriously in order to ensure a welcoming community.

Along with many in the free and open source software world, the Fedora Council was taken aback that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has allowed Richard Stallman to rejoin their Board of Directors given his history of abuse and harassment. The Fedora Council does not normally involve itself with the governance of other projects. However, this is an exceptional case due to the FSF’s stewardship of the GPL family of licenses, which are critical for the work we do.

In keeping with our values, we will stop providing funding or attendance to any FSF-sponsored events and any events at which Richard Stallman is a featured speaker or exhibitor. This also applies to any organization where he has a leadership role.

Excellent technical contribution is not enough. We expect all members of our community to uphold the Friends value.

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue close_status updated to: resolved
- Issue status updated to: Closed (was: Open)

a month ago

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