I was wrong about Google and Facebook: there’s nothing wrong with them (so say we all)

ar.al/2019/01/11/i-was-wrong-a

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.

@wolftune

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

en.wiktionary.org/wiki/apology

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.

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@Shamar

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.

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