In the past, I’ve called out @fosdem for having Google as a sponsor:

So this year, they added Facebook also:

FOSDEM is about open source, not freedom.

Why is this a problem? Read this:

@aral I really really want to go to FOSDEM, but yeah I feel that's a bit too far
"Sad but truuuuuue"

To cheer you up: today at work our lunch was paid for by one of 'our' business partner: Microsoft. I took a stand to my measure and did not queue for my burger 🚶‍🚶‍♂️🚶‍♂️

@aral @fosdem deep & thoughtful one! is funding the only reason for this unsavory relationship?

@aral but who's put time into finding ethical sponsors?

Calling orgs out is easy and fairly lazy. Its not like they try to hide the sponsors.


FYI time has been spent, especially this year, to try and convince the organization to apply for an european funds and other alternatives to few controversial sponsors.

The organization itself has been hostile to this idea, bringing up arguments like "we cannot lose the support of facebook/google/github for the next editions".

Sponsoring is managed by a few people within the organization, and their actions are not visible by most of the organization members.


Can you share some proof of that?
Like any link or discussion around this.
@paperdigits @aral


No, you will have to take my word for it. I had been a member of the FOSDEM "staff" aka year-around-volunteers team for many years, and these topics have been discussed in meetings.

FOSDEM defends its "neutrality" around the topic of Surveillance Capitalism, and does not see it as an actual problem that affects its visitors. This has always been the case, and sponsorship from big tech has been important to make the event grow every year to a larger scale.

I, and other people involved in FOSDEM in different ways, have tried to invert this tendency and propose a different way to look on how to cover the budget, to guarantee the autonomy on the program content. Diversity of topics and content that is still there today, may suffer by these unique sources of funding tomorrow.

@paperdigits @aral

@danielinux @jlhertel @paperdigits @aral Nice to know that there are some people trying to change the way things are done.

And yes its the influence over content which is critical. I may be dull as dishwater but I do watch a lot of tech conference videos and it's noticeable that when the conference is not sponsored by Google or Facebook that there is a much more honest discussion about commercial surveillance and the problems it creates.


we *tried* indeed, and failed, so far. I left FOSDEM because of the strong opposition I received when trying to change things that are not even supposed to be discussed.

Regarding influence over content, I would say so far so good, or at least as long as FOSDEM can keep up accepting alternative viewpoints in the program, and confirm self-organizing devrooms with no influence from the org - like "decentralized internet and privacy" as in the past editions.

@jlhertel @paperdigits @aral

Thanks for sharing the insights.
I feel a bit worried when management/staff don't want to discuss a topic.
Even if there is no problem in getting money from Google e co., it's still very stupid to depend on 1 or 2 sources of money for everything.
@paperdigits @aral

@danielinux Do you have any reading material or pointers where to learn about getting funds for this kind of event from the EU?

I see your concerns. But as long as #GAFAM don't abuse their sponsorship to prevent any fediverse and small tech sessions or keep specific persons out, I see this as a big chance to get organized on large conferences such as #fosdem

Allowing #GAFAM to have a booth on a conference is legitimizing them. It enables them to look like they are good-natured. But they are not! They are the leads of #surveillancecapitalism. We must not collaborate with these
@aral @fosdem

I totally agree with you. However, "not collaborating with these" will not change status quo. In order to create privacy aware alternatives, we must organize. For me, #fosdem is still a conference to meet people working on the fediverse and alternative messengers such as #matrix @aral @fosdem

@WabuMike I totally agree with "we need to organize". Nevertheless, not cooperating is a must: We need to show that it is not okay (or "normal") to use theri services.

It's like plane flights in the age of climate crisis: You will not change (a lot) when not flying, nevertheless it's not okay (and must become abnormal) to fly.

@aral @fosdem

@aral I hope everyone in my followers list understands this ironic text,otherwise I'll have a problem 😆 But yes,you're totally right.I'll just boycott any event sponsored by a surveillance company 👎 Sometimes I think we should do our own events,made by volunteers and without the goal to earn much money.It wouldn't be easy.Reaching many participants might be the biggest difficulty.But maybe it would be worth the effort.

They don't charge you anything to visit fosdem, it's completely free as in free beer. It's organized by volunteers. There are quite a few sessions that deal with the fediverse or alternative messengers such as Matrix. IMHO, there is no need for boycott.

@aral good stuff. I note that a whole bunch of software freedom advocates have been the subject of character assassination within (and/ or by) some of these same organizations, increasing at about the same rate as Surveillance Capitalist sponsorship of open source and privacy events. Interesting coincidence ...

@aral @fosdem I've privately shared these sentiments you pointed out. When I see the big 5 names it makes me distrust who ever is in partnership with them. Do business with crooks expect to be cheated. It concerns me how deep their tentacles are. There seems to be a common game here. When a FLOSS venture reaches a certain point its seems to be bought out by one of the big 5. Maybe being small is the only solution here? Maybe the big 5 use some of the data they collected to leverage deals?

@cyprian @aral @fosdem I've often wondered about the role of several factors in these decisions. 1: are FLOSS decision-makers still wooed by the "glamor" of a big tech name being interested in their work?2: is their an implied "let us join or we'll do our own version" to these discussion.

@cyprian @aral @fosdem

I'm no expert, so beware

The gcc is being worked on by high profile professionals payed by big corps

I met one of those pros.

And yet you wouldn't say it's been bought, would you ?

Are copyleft licensed better suited, in this regard ?

@cyprian @aral Same. The trustworthiness decreases each time I see Facebook or Google as sponsors.

@aral @fosdem I mostly agree with you, but consider this:

I'd rather they give their money away to Free Software conferences than keep it to themselves.
@acuteanniemay @aral @fosdem I think the limit is that you have to be quite independent of them.

I don't know about fosdem but for example Mozilla had a deal with Google, so they're not *just* taking the money.

@aral @fosdem
Hi! there will be an OFFDEM meeting at the same time as FOSDEM (February 1st and 2nd), "at a location close to the traditional FOSDEM venue"!
An intersectional festival about collective practices & free technologies production.
Conceived as the Off festival of FOSDEM, OFFDEM aims to attract producers and users of free technologies (free software, open source hardware) at the margin of FOSDEM, which is the world’s largest gathering of free software and open-source developers. OFFDEM is set to happen, like FOSDEM, on the first week-end of February, in Brussels, at a location close to the traditional FOSDEM venue. Why OFFDEM: FOSDEM Fringe event announcement:

@aral @fosdem Ugh, this makes my stomach churn, and it's sadly familiar from my other life as a Registered Dietitian. We're the nutritionists in hospitals in the US, and our professional organization is sponsored by candy and sweetened beverage companies:

There's been an internal movement to drop food company sponsorship for years, but the org won't budge except to reiterate statements about how they get to influence these companies (the opposite happens).

@aral @fosdem

Also apparently, along Google and Facebook, #FOSDEM is sponsored by AWS and Github...

So the only GAFAM that *isn't* sponsoring FOSDEM is Apple! Maybe next year?

#FOSDEM #SurveillanceCapitalism #SoftCorruption

@jz @aral @fosdem wait, what??!! Oh right, as @aral said, it's about open source, not freedom. As you can have organic crap, you can have open source crap...

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