Why we can’t regulate Google, etc:

Because of useful idiots like @conservancy legitimising them by being sponsored by them.

Me: Google is a surveillance capitalist that makes billions tracking and profiling you. They are a threat to our human rights and democracy. We just regulate them.

Policymaker: you must be mistaken, they’re the good guys. Look, here they are allowed to sponsor CopyLeft Conf with the FSF logo displayed proudly next to theirs.

@aral Any statements or feedback on that by @conservancy or Free Software Foundation? At the very least for the latter this doesn't really seem desirable at all...

@aral @conservancy
Well, in this case, this is just totally false reasoning by the policymaker. He should not make any assumptions about a company based on the events they sponsor. Ever.

@stevenroose @conservancy Not based on the events they sponsor. Based on the events/groups that will allow them to sponsor. HealthConf sponsored by Philip Morris. EnvironmentConf sponsored by Exxon Mobil., etc. If those events/groups have legitimacy, they end up legitimising those companies.

@aral @conservancy Another strange assumption. That events/groups filter their sponsors based on their merit. Sponsors are supposed to give you money in return for publicity. Period.
Having a company sponsor should *in no way* be considered a agreement with their actions.

@stevenroose I still feel a bit lost here, especially seeing companies like Google pop up as re-occurring sponsors for FSF(E) or GNOME Foundation as well. Is it *all* just whitewashing then? Is it a sign that even large entities with pretty much disputable business approaches might support "ethical" things as well? Or is it a sign that most of #SoftwareLibre and #FLOSS, despite all idealism, still has a great funding issue?

@aral @conservancy

@stevenroose @conservancy Yes, it’s a strange assumption that money is influence. So strange that a strange man called Lawrence Lessig coined the term “institutional corruption” to describe it and then, strangely, went on to briefly run for president in the US on this single issue to raise awareness about it.

Honestly, I’m baffled that otherwise intelligent people in our industry have such a hard time understanding corruption and legitimisation.

@stevenroose @aral
Whether it should or should not, the fact is that the sponsor and the sponsored both lend each other a bit of their credibility, and accepting money from someone gives the sponsor just a little control over you... the more money, the more control. Because what if you lose that funding in the future?
Just because something is funded by something else doesn't inherently mean it shares the same problems, but it justifies criticism and closer inspection.

@stevenroose @aral @conservancy not a very sophisticated thinker when it comes to power and money are ya

@twome @aral @conservancy It's not about me. A policymaker write the law. If they write a law that implies that a company sponsoring free-speech movements is free from suspicion of practices that constrain free speech, the policymaker writes bad policy.
Policy decisions should be based on what a company does, not what events it sponsors.

@twome @aral @conservancy I'm not saying there is not link. I'm saying that link should never be taken into account by a policymaker because it's very easy to fake.

@jpf @conservancy Sadly, not extraordinary at all (it should be); you might even say it’s the norm (see Mozilla/Google, RightsCon/Google/Facebook, Amsterdam Privacy Week/Palantir/Google/Facebook, etc.)

@aral @conservancy If the world would be black and white only, there still is a difference between them.

Taking Googles money can lead to institutional corruption, yes.
Definitely can.

This needs two!

Why not assume integrity on's side?

@0xD @conservancy For the same reason I wouldn’t trust Greenpeace on the environment if it was sponsored by Exxon Mobil or, for that reason, why I don’t trust Mozilla on privacy and human rights when they get hundreds of millions of dollars from Google and other surveillance capitalists.

Integrity isn’t something you assume about an organisation, it’s something they demonstrate by not engaging in bullshit like this.

@aral @conservancy Does this mean that Microsoft will be releasing Azure under AGPL ?

@Shamar @bob @aral @conservancy i think that should lay open the concessions they have to make for Google etc - yes Transparency

Some of the foundations not only take Google's money, but also let Google dictate what to do. GNOME has this rule for the Board of Directors:
"Keep confidential discussions private. This includes legal discussions or conversations with the Advisory Board." Google is in the "Advisory" Board.

@aral @conservancy

I don't think Google uses GNOME in any of their products.
But GNOME Desktop has an option to integrate Google services into the desktop environment. For example automatic syncing user's GNOME calendar to their Google calendar. Also it can sync email, contacts, documents, photos and even printers.

Also, GNOME Desktop has native Google Drive integration.

@bob @aral

@neoncipher @bob FFS! (I’m sick of this crap. Seriously. Every stone you turn over, something new…)

@aral @neoncipher @bob well yeah, that's what you get when a company becomes big, rich and powerful enough: it puts its tentacles everywhere. It's just capitalism, nothing surprising here.

Terrible, yes; but not surprising.

@mathieu @bob @neoncipher @aral it's also not like Google gets any special treatment in this - GNOME also supports IMAP/SMTP and free providers for other services as well, such as Nextcloud for contacts, files, calendar, and notes.

The unfortunate truth is that if you want the average person using free software, that software will need to have the ability to connect to common services until we can make them less common.

@aral @brainblasted @neoncipher @bob so, keep in mind that Geary was started pretty much as a GMail client **for** GNOME, maintained outside of it (by the now dead Yorba). Its generic IMAP/SMTP support is indeed a bit of an afterthought.

Geary was later adopted by GNOME, and since then Michael has been working hard on making it better.

The issue you link to even states the plan for dropping that Google special preference.

@mathieu @aral @brainblasted @neoncipher @bob

Particularly hilarious when you consider that Yorba's *primary goal* of writing Geary in the first place was to wean people off web mail services by providing a better user experience.

Aral, you know where I stand on this and you know that Geary lists GMail first has nothing to do with some deep corporate conspiracy. So I'd appreciate it if you'd stop shitting on the work that I and other contributors put into the app in our spare time. Thanks.

@mjog @mathieu @brainblasted @neoncipher @bob Yes, Michael, I’m the problem here by criticising legitimisation of surveillance capitalists. I’m not shitting on your work (it’s great work, you’re an amazing developer, I’m in awe), I’m criticising your ethics.

I’ll leave it here. If I had to explain to every person in the mainstream individually why I oppose surveillance capitalists, I would get nothing else done.

@mjog @mathieu @brainblasted @neoncipher @bob It’s clear that GNOME considers Google and other surveillance capitalists to be entirely acceptable. They’re on your advisory board and they have first class support.

It is what it is.

If GNOME opposed surveillance capitalism, there would be privacy warnings and it would try to lead people towards ethical alternatives.

Anyway, like I said, I’m done here.

@aral "the Advisory Board does not have decision-making authority for the GNOME Foundation" (
If Google really had influence over apps, I assume they would be more concerned with adblocking in GNOME Web.

@brainblasted @neoncipher @mathieu @bob And, regardless of special treatment (which it gets), what GNOME is saying is that it is cool with surveillance capitalism and surveillance capitalists like Google, etc. (And it is.)

@aral @mathieu @neoncipher @brainblasted One of the many tasks to be done is to shift the Overton window around the big tech companies and their domination of conferences. So I think some folks need to be attending these and then to give talks in which they publicly criticize the sponsors and bring into question whether their presence is desirable, even if they don't get invited back. Especially the influence of the tech companies on paid for advisory boards should be examined and shouldn't be opaque as it currently is.
@aral @mathieu @neoncipher @brainblasted Paid for advisory boards seem like an especially insidious way for companies to buy influence in the direction of a project.

@bob @aral historically, companies on the advisory board have had very few impact on the direction of the project, as the Foundation only helps with logistics, it doesn't set the direction, takes technical decisions, etc…

This might change now that the Foundation has a developer employee, we will see.

At the same time, companies have much more power by just hiring developers, so the Foundation having its own employee also helps against that.

@bob @aral the bottom line is this is all very complicated, and abolishing capitalism entirely would probably be easier and lead to better results. 😏

@bob @aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted as a former board member I can assure you that the money entities pay is for the privilege of being able help guide the foundation (not the project). There is nothing insidious about it as you claim.

@bob @neoncipher @brainblasted as a GNOME Foundation member, I agree with this sentiment and tactic.

I'm all for refusing Google's money. But we do need some money unfortunately.

@aral do you want to get Indie on the advisory board and help us get rid of Google? 🙂

@mathieu @bob @neoncipher @brainblasted Sure, would love to… should I shoot @laura or myself though because we’d have to get rid of one of our salaries to afford the annual fee.

@aral @bob @neoncipher @brainblasted @laura ouch, that's a pretty high price indeed, I hadn't looked at the page before sending it. 😣

We should probably have a lower entry point for small companies… I'd be much happier with multiple smaller sponsors instead of one Google-like huge one.

@mathieu @bob @neoncipher @brainblasted @laura And how about free for a not-for-profit working for progressive change? If @indie had an advisory committee, I wouldn’t dream of making them pay. In fact, I’d feel bad if I couldn’t compensate them for their time and input.

@aral @bob @laura is @indie a not for profit?

I don't know whether Debian pays to be on the advisory board or not, to be honest, it's possible that it's already free for nonprofits.

@aral @laura @indie alright, so first, apologies, I just assumed you were a for-profit consultancy (albeit one with a sense of ethics).

I'll try to ask around for membership, whether there's a discount/gratuity for non-profits.

@aral @mathieu @bob @neoncipher @brainblasted @laura you got go for a regular donation subscription and get your friends to do it. Just like in politics if there are a lot of donors the project gets money. But just like the advisory members, you don't get a say in the technical direction of the project just to be clear.


... OR publicly declining the invitation referring to the issue. Like it should be done regarding all-male conferences, etc.

@aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted

@bob @aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted

this will be explosive Stuff on Fosdem and will lead to a lot of controversy; another reason why @bob should attend

@bob @aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted

whereas I learned from a reliable source of the Fosdem Orga that me fighting over years the booth of GsoC which is clearly an Recruiting tool for Google is tolerated because the University Libre Bosh wants their students to get a job

@yukiame @brainblasted @mathieu @neoncipher @aral Yes, the politics of Free Software gets murky. GSoC is about the only remaining thing that Google does which is vaguely good (things like OMEMO came out of it), and people always need jobs.

But in the long run I think it should be a goal to try to extricate ourselves from these murky relationships with giant companies whose agendas are almost certainly not well aligned.
@yukiame @aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted Ah but I'm sure if a few extra beers are purchased the recruiting rules can be overlooked 😉

@bob @aral @neoncipher @mathieu @brainblasted

it shows that you have never been to Fosdem otherwise you wouldn't say that

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Aral’s Mastodon

This is my personal Mastodon.