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

Applying that analysis leaves us not trusting @aral too.

I'm just now picking up this thread again, because, as best I can tell, he's blocked me for noting his own compromises.

The question isn't whether we compromise or not. We do.

The question is, what are we going to do to make it better?

This purist bomb-throwin feeds into the rage machine that so many of us in the fediverse are trying to disentangle ourselves from

mastodon.sdf.org/@deejoe/10140

@wolftune @Shamar @cwebber

@deejoe @oshwm @aral @wolftune @Shamar @cwebber

I do not know @aral well enough to know if I can trust him or not, he certainly makes the right noises - but you know different and I would like to know what he has done that shows how he has compromised on his 'core values' so that I can put him in the same category (in my mind) as @conservancy

As for Rage Machine, maybe it is not a bad thing if we are being misled by so many people and organisations.

@oshwm

You can trust @aral — he's shown long-term consistency, addressed his own issues (moved toward fully-FLO away from Apple).

But the rage-machine concerns are valid. It's one way to reinforce tribalism and manipulate activists. Purism is a witch-hunt style eat-your-own approach. The whole idea of badge-beliefs and of checking whether someone is "one of us" leads to all sorts fo dysfunctions.

That tribalism is exploitable by actual bad actors.

@deejoe @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

@wolftune @oshwm @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

So, I've begun to think about what you might call the "freedom curve", plotted on an axes labelled "freedom" (y) and "reach" (x). I suspect it looks something like an exponential decay, with high freedom plotted at the far left, but with very little reach (let's just say for sake of argument that's where RMS and TdR and a Gideon's Band of others sit). As you move to the right, freedom falls away, but you cover more people.

@wolftune @oshwm @aral @Shamar @cwebber @conservancy

Assuming one can influence the shape of the curve, what do you do?

Do you try to increase the overall limits of freedom for the few on the left? I think someone should.

Do you try to increase the integrated freedom, under the curve, by lifting the broad but imperfect freedoms of people further to the right? Yes, that too.

I haven't used this model so much to think about privacy but it might be useful there too.

@deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber

I like the approach but you definitely need more dimensions to describe the system.

Yet if @aral is a saint or not is totally unrelevant here.

Is he right about #SurveillanceCapitalism?
I think so.

Is he right that @conservancy should not accept #Google money?
Again I think so, but we can discuss this.

Yet for sure NOT for a conference on #Copyleft!

1/

@deejoe @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @aral @conservancy

Can #Rifle sponsor gun regulation?
Can #Malboro sponsor tobacco regulation?
Can #Monsanto sponsor GMO regulation?

The answer is no, simply because their business model is in direct contrast with such regulations.

Can #Google sponsor #Copyleft?
No. It's totally the same.

So, even beyond #surveillance, this decision is either incredibly naive or plain malicious.

@Shamar

We can see how @aral handles Apple
in these sorts of discussions--is his stance yours also?

@wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

@deejoe @aral @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

What do you mean?

He seem pretty critical about Apple's hypocrisy too. I don’t like Apple but I don't care much about what they do: I simply don't buy their over expensive products.
Today they are not that threat to #FreeSoftware: the worse they are doing against freedom is #LLVM, but this turned to be relevant only because of the stubbornness of RMS with GCC.
1/

@deejoe @aral @wolftune @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

Even #Microsoft, in this time and age, is a secondary threat to free software.

They were a problem in 2000, under #Ballmer direction when #FreeSoftware was not mainstream yet.

But now they are surrending.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a opensource #Windows in a decade or two.

2/

Follow

@Shamar

I totally disagree about Microsoft being not-so-bad a threat.They remain powerful, they aren't embracing software freedom, and their approach to Google is to *try* to outdo them in surveillance-capitalism even.

All these entities, Google included, are mixed in some ways.

@deejoe @aral @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

@wolftune @deejoe @aral @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

I said it's a secondary threat not that they are our friends.

As far as I know Microsoft (quite a bit as I have to cope with them way too often) they have no hope to stands with Google.
At least not now.

@Shamar

My main disagreement was with your framing that Microsoft's threat has reduced compared to years ago.

They were more obvious bullies before and are more nuanced now, but we're not going to see an Open Sourcing of Windows. And if that ever happens, it will be because Windows has become just a thin-client front to "cloud" computing SaaSS and such.

Microsoft's legal threats to software-freedom and embrace-extend-extinguish strategy are all still here today.

@wolftune

Yes, maybe... but they are secondary if compared to the smartest and more subtle strategy of Google.

They have lost ground, even as a threat! :-D

Look at WSL. Look at Edge.
(Nokia? no it's like shooting on the red cross)

They are surrending.
They are coping Google without being Google.

They might become a serious issue again in the future, but right now they are trying to grasp what they got wrong.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @cwebber @conservancy

My take on what's occurring with Microsoft is that they're transitioning to a new business model. So far as they're concerned the personal computing era is over. From here on out the Azure cloud will manage all the desktops and your OS will be ad supported and monitor your behavior to optimize your user experience. Windows and Azure will remain proprietary, since that ensures the telemetry and content delivery pipeline, but anything else can be "open source" to cut developer costs. You'll be able to tweak some settings on Windows, but everything else will be managed from the cloud. No manual updates. Think ChromeOS, but moreso.

Microsoft will remain hostile, but as a different kind of threat. They'll be nice as pie so long as your open source project runs on Windows, or in a Linux VM running on Windows, Delivered by Azure(TM). Anything else they either won't care about or will be hostile towards.

@bob @deejoe @cwebber @conservancy @aral @wolftune @oshwm

Yes, this is what I mean when I say they could become a serious problem: I've read your analysis before and it's pretty reasonable.

But there's no way to know if they will succeed with this transition.

They tried something similar with Nokia and now they run Android.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @conservancy It's also very strange to me to see Apple presented as "not as bad an actor" in regards to *copyleft* as Google in this thread. Apple has lead the way on most of the anti-copyleft sentiment, especially by the apple store's incompatibility with / banning of the GPL. At any rate, as I've said before, "corporations are hydras"... in general, many heads which may act differently, even if being bit is a general concern.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @oshwm @conservancy I also feel like I have nothing else useful to add to this thread and thus won't say anything more :)

@cwebber

I didn't see any reference to Apple being not-as-bad about copyleft.

Aral has a history of mild Apple apologism along the lines of: if surveillance capitalism died, Apple would still have a legitimate business model (selling hardware) while Google and Facebook would not.

But I didn't see him or anyone else saying Apple was better on copyleft. Maybe I missed something.

@cwebber

For my part, I see no difference between Apple and Google.
As far as individuals who work at a particular company, most are unlikely to be as evil as the company they work for but practise its overall policy or don't feed their families.
This doesn't prevent the outward actions of the company from being evil and thus the rest of us should shun those companies.

@wolftune @Shamar @deejoe @aral @conservancy

@cwebber @wolftune @deejoe @aral @oshwm @conservancy

As long as their market share remain unchanged, #Apple will be by far less relevant to #Copyleft (and to #Surveillance) than Google or even Microsoft.

They are not our friends and we should be careful to not get fooled to consider them as such.
But we should be aware of the difference between our adversaries: confusion always helps bad players (see #FLOSS vs FS).

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