Tuesday, 23 March 2021 06:16

FSF patrons urged to quit after Stallman returns to board Featured

Katie Moussouris: "Corporations who care about women should pull their financial sponsorship of anything related to the FSF." Katie Moussouris: "Corporations who care about women should pull their financial sponsorship of anything related to the FSF." Courtesy: YouTube

Well-known infosec practitioner Katie Moussouris, the chief executive and founder of Luta Security, has called on patrons of the Free Software Foundation to pull out after the organisation allowed its founder, Richard Stallman, to take up a position on the board again, more than two years after he quit over remarks about the victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier and convicted sex offender.

"What fresh hell is this?" Moussouris, a pioneer in vulnerability disclosure, tweeted. "Another unrepentant abuser getting away with it after a short blink of a non-career-limiting pause in which no self reflection, personal growth, or remorse was pursued nor expected before his inglorious infamous return."

Stallman announced he was back on the board during the 2021 LibrePlanet conference, an annual event staged by the FSF, which was held on 19 March.

The remarks that led to Stallman quitting in 2019 were made on an MIT mailing list, where he said the term sexual assault "is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X".

His reference was to deceased AI pioneer Marvin Minsky who was accused of assaulting one of Epstein's victims, Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 at the time. Epstein committed suicide while in jail for alleged child trafficking offences.

When Eva Fortune, a research engineer at Proofpoint, asked who had allowed Stallman back, Moussouris, who has worked for Microsoft and Symantec in the past, responded that the board of FSF was responsible.

"In doing so, they sent a message to all women that we don’t matter, that an open, unrepentant abuser is fit to lead," she added.

"Corporations who care about women should pull their financial sponsorship of anything related to the Free Software Foundation."

She posted the logos of five corporations that are patrons of the FSF: Bad Packets, Bibliotek Systemer, Insurgo, IUT Beziers, Purism and Ton Labs.

Another poster in the same thread, Ryan Jamieson, asked what the rationalisation was for bringing Stallman back. "Why bring him back from the dead? It's not like he's the only way forward," he wrote.

Responding to this tweet, a poster with the handle Damian wrote: "Boggles the mind as to why. Even putting aside all the stories about him being a creep, misogynistic, sexist pig... Why would they want him back after decades of him in it?

"What happened with bringing new voices? Ideas? new diverse representation? He brings 1990 viewpoints!"

Update, 24 March, 10.45am AEDT: In a statement, Bad Packets said it had terminated its relationship with the FSF and claimed this had happened prior to publication of this story.

"We are shocked and concerned about the news surrounding Richard Stallman's return to the Free Software Foundation," the security firm said in a tweet.

"His behaviour is completely unacceptable and he has no place in the free software movement. We have ceased our donations to FSF and requested the immediate removal of Bad Packets name and logo from the FSF website."

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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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