Monday, 19 April 2021 07:08

Debian votes for no statement on Stallman's move back to FSF board Featured

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Debian votes for no statement on Stallman's move back to FSF board Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Debian GNU/Linux project has voted to stay out of the controversy over Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman rejoining the board in March, by backing the option of not releasing a statement on the issue as an organisation.

This option was one of seven that developers voted on in a general resolution over the fortnight from 4 April onwards.

Stallman announced on 19 March, during the FSF's annual LibrePlanet conference, that he was rejoining the board. He had stepped down in 2019, following controversy over remarks he made about the victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier and convicted sex offender.

Several past Debian leaders and also individual developers have signed a petition calling for Stallman to go and for the entire board to follow suit. Right now, this petition has the backing of 61 organisations and 3010 individuals, apart from its 16 main signatories. Nineteen organisations have published their own statements, all calling for Stallman to go.

Supporters of Stallman have put up their own letter calling for him to stay on the board. As of this writing, there are a total of 6400 signatories.

Both Red Hat and SUSE, the two largest open source vendors, have supported the move against Stallman. But while SUSE has put its name as a company to the letter calling for Stallman to be removed, Red Hat has not done so.

The Debian GR had the following as options for members to vote on:

  • remove the entire FSF board as mooted in an existing letter;
  • seek Stallman's resignation from all FSF bodies;
  • discourage collaboration with the FSF while Stallman remains in a leading position;
  • ask the FSF to further its governance processes;
  • support Stallman's reinstatement;
  • denounce the witch hunt against Stallman and the FSF; and
  • issue no public statement on the issue.

While all options received sufficient votes to achieve a quorum, the option to support Stallman's reinstatement (54 votes) and to denounce the witch hunt (84 votes) received the least support and were dropped as they did reach a majority.

The option that emerged as the winner received 277 votes.

While the voting was in progress, the FSF issued a statement saying that it had voted to bring back Stallman "after several months of thorough discussion and thoughtful deliberation".

Stallman issued his own statement a minute before the FSF did so, offering his justification for having behaved the way he did and also offering an apology.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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