Saturday, 03 April 2021 08:24

More resignations at FSF over Stallman returning to board Featured

Richard Stallman: his return to the board has led to a firestorm of protest. Richard Stallman: his return to the board has led to a firestorm of protest. Courtesy YouTube

The management team of the Free Software Foundation has resigned, following the stepping down of executive director, John Sullivan, on 29 March.

A statement from Sullivan, deputy director John Hsieh, and chief technology officer Ruben Rodriguez on 30 March said: "As members of FSF management, we have decided to resign, with specific end dates to be determined. We believe in the importance of the FSF's mission and feel a new team will be better placed to implement recent changes in governance.

"Free software and copyleft are critical issues of our time, and the FSF is, and should continue to be, the organisation leading this movement. FSF staff have our utmost respect, support, and appreciation, and it has been a privilege to work with you all. Our team's mutual goal is to ensure a smooth transition while supporting the necessary renovation of the foundation's governance."

The resignations come in the wake of FSF founder Richard Stallman announcing on 19 March, during the organisation's annual LibrePlanet conference, that he was rejoining the board. He had stepped down from the FSF in 2019, following remarks he made about the victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier and convicted sex offender.

Stallman's name has also been taken off the Web page listing the steering committee for GCC. David Edelsohn, a founding member of the panel, wrote in a post to the GCC mailing list: "In 2012 RMS was added to the GCC Steering Committee Web page based on his role in the GNU Project, though his role as a member of the Steering Committee has been ambiguous and he was not a member of the Steering Committee when EGCS became GCC.

"We no longer feel that this listing serves the best interests of the GCC developer and user community. Therefore, we are removing him from the page."

A push to oust Stallman from the FSF board began on 24 March, with an open letter, which currently has the support of 61 organisations and 3013 individuals, apart from its 16 main signatories. Fourteen 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 5193 signatories.

Both Red Hat and SUSE, the two largest open source vendors, have supported the move. 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 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.

Well-known security practitioner Katie Moussouris, the chief executive and founder of Luta Security, was one of the first to call out Stallman on 30 March.

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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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