Data Security

To start this article, I should mention what those words mean. Freedom means “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint” and liberty means “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” However, from now on, when I use any of those words, I mean both of them. So whether I write freedom or liberty, I mean “freedom and liberty”.

I value my liberty. I think liberty is what makes humans, humans. As a Middle Eastern, I understand how much my freedom is valuable and important. Us Middle Easterners are very much familiar with struggles one can have to gain freedom.

We fight for freedom in Middle East. If you’ve followed Middle East news in past 10 years, you surely understand what I’m talking about. Part of our fight for liberty needs us to be anonymous. In Middle East, you may get arrested or executed for simply talking against the dictator, so many of people take anonymity very serious when they talk politics, or anything else.

Anonymity is part of privacy. Anonymity is a choice when someone has privacy. I should explain this too. Being anonymous is a choice while privacy is a right. Someone with privacy can or may be anonymous but one can be identified and known while one still has privacy. I for example am active in a social network with my real name but I still take my privacy seriously, and am careful about my computing and acts.

Now back to what I was saying. In a situation like Middle East, privacy is so essential for living that almost everybody takes it seriously. I don’t mean all people are avoiding Google or Facebook, etc. but I mean they try their best to not give their data to the government.

People in Middle East basically understand the value and importance of privacy. However, even in Middle East, many people give me the argument of “I have nothing to hide” and refuse to take their privacy and rights seriously. Many don’t understand with not taking their privacy seriously, what they’re giving away.

To live as a free human being, and not be controlled or conquered by any person or power, you need privacy.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

Edward Snowden

Let’s start arguing against the “I have nothing to hide.”

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I sent this post as an email message to libreplanet-discuss mailing list.

Do you guys follow football? I mean the real football, not Amerikkkan one. There’s a club in Spain named Barcelona. They have a player in their team named Leo Messi. I think many of you know him.

Messi is believed to be one of the best football players in the history. During time, some people accused Messi of sexual assault and harassment. They even went to court for it and sued Messi. It turned out that all of them were only doing this for money, hoping that Leo Messi gives them some ransom.

There’s another player named Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is almost as same as Messi. He is again believed to be one of the bests in the history. He also was accused of sexual harassment and assault. Again, some people went to court and sued him, etc.

Some of the accusers never went to court but they tell very interesting stories on how they were assaulted. There were no proof and the teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) never responded.

I can’t tell if those players who have a reputation of good behavior and charity and social work were really offenders or not, but I can tell one thing. Barca and Madrid didn’t let go of their best players because of some unproven accusations.

I remember Leo Messi once attacked a journalist physically because he was very angry but again, he made up to that, apologized, and never repeated such behavior because he was aware of how it can affect people. Again, we didn’t see any effort to ban Messi from playing football completely because that mistake.

I’m a football fan. I’m a fan of Manchester United, neither of those teams I mentioned but I never ever campaigned to throw out Messi and Ronaldo for unproven accusations.

I did not expect those teams to simply fire probably the best player of their history because some people said so.

Do you get my analogy here? I hear stories about an autistic person named RMS that he has assaulted women, harassed them, or sexually abused them. When I go and read the stories, I see what Stallman did was to “upset” some people. Not harassment, not assault, but upset.

Stallman shouted at some people or interrupted them while speaking. He hit on women or asked them out and insisted on that, which made them uncomfortable. If he was doing to me, I would be upset too, but I wouldn’t ever accuse him of assault or harassment. I wouldn’t expect FSF to fire its probably most valuable player that is known for his charity, effort for equality, justice, women’s rights, etc.

Why people expect FSF to fire its probably best player in history? I don’t understand that.

What people explain is not sexual harassment. He was an unpleasant person, maybe, to some people but he didn’t do anything to harass them.

Let me give you another example. There’s a different between patting some child on the butt and pedophilia. Now a pedophile most-probably does pat children on the butt but are all people who do that pedophiles? Hell no.

Please don’t accuse people of what they didn’t do because they made you uncomfortable or were unpleasant. If someone shouts at you, defend yourself or if the act of shouting makes you psychologically hurt, please be very very careful when you come out of your home because you may experience it almost every time.

If someone hitting on you makes you uncomfortable, ask them not to do that or ask security to help you but don’t accuse that person of harassment because looking at someone or being weird is not harassment. And again, please be careful when you come out of your house because you may experience it every day.

If someone interrupts you, ask them not to do that or argue back but don’t accuse that person of harassment because they didn’t harass you with that. Harassment is different. And please be careful when you come out of your house because people may interrupt you every day.

Stop with accusing people of things when they didn’t do that.

Also, please don’t accuse me of sexual harassment because I wrote this note. I don’t even know any of you and I did not harass you. Disagreeing with you is not harassment. Sending email messages is not assault.

I had to clarify that because as far as I’ve seen you people, the next open letter would’ve been for me. Don’t start arh-open-letter please. And yes, I’m mocking some people.

From my previous post, I should add this:

We should not let them win this. This is not just RMS, it’s a fight for truth. If we, and FSF, step down, we give them power to do anything simply because they want to.

The first mistake was made back in 2019 when the FSF bowed down by not standing up to the mobs. That sent the message, “we listen to you.” It’s only natural that the mobs will try again, with renewed violence.

If we had same attitude 40 years ago, there would be no FSF and GNU. It took someone like RMS to create what we have.

Canceling someone because he explained the meaning of some words is crazy and dangerous. And there’s more. Once they realized the issue with the words was not enough of an excuse, they started looking for more, resorting to intentional misinterpretations, exaggerations and lies.

And the FSF keeps listening to the same rant.

Richard Stallman is a scientist and a philosopher. That means he has an inquisitive mind. If he says he is skeptical of something, if he criticizes the status quo, it only means that: a doubt, a desire to understand better. And as a scientist, as soon as he discovers evidence that clarifies his doubts, or something that helps him understand, he is ready to declare it openly. He has done that, several times, as have many scientists on a variety of subjects.

History shows that inquisitive minds are not always welcome, specially when they challenge religious, ideological, or political views. If these minds choose not to self-censor, they need to be ready to suffer severe punishment.

Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy and brought to trial by the Inquisition when he declared that the earth was not flat. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for holding opinions contrary to the masses. There are many.

Yes, we are back to the Middle Ages.

Update: I received an email about this note. The message:

Hi Ali,

you conclude your last blog post by saying: “Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy and brought to trial by the Inquisition when he declared that the earth was not flat”.

Please be aware that not only Galileo was never tried for Earth’s roundness, the whole fact that the flat Earth theory was widespread in the middle ages is a hoax. Earth’s roundness was already well established in ancient Greece, and nobody ever doubted that even in the Catholic church. The flat Earth theory really originated in America. around the late 1800s.

Even the myth of Christopher Columbus wanting to prove that Earth was round is humbug. Everyone knew Earth was round, there was no need to prove it whatsoever.

The reason why Galileo was trialed was because he said that Earth revolves around the Sun, as opposed to the geocentric doctrine that was then accepted in the mainstream.

Lastly, I find your last remark inappropriate. The middle ages were not at all “dark”, most of the pre-modern technological advancements happened there. More relevantly, there was never a dictatorship of the angry masses which is what the cancel culture is about. If anything the angry masses had their chance to impose their opinions starting from the French revolution, at the height of illuminism – ironically, the movement that invented the concept of the medieval times being the “dark ages”.

I hope you will consider altering the conclusion of your article, as in its current state I feel it ruins an otherwise well written and very agreeable content.

Regards,
Alessandro

I’ve been asking those who signed letter to remove RMS from all leadership positions whether they’ve read RMS statement/email that lead to all the controversies we’re now experiencing but not a single person have read the complete message/statement.

This is madness. All those who I asked have got their info on the matter from news sites that only quoted very specific part of RMS’ message out of context. They’re asking RMS to step down from his job simply because they don’t know what he said exactly.

Let me give you a backstory.

A backstory

It was September 2019, just a few months after the world had learned of the horrific sex trafficking operation run by influential billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Revelation after revelation had come out of powerful people and institutions connections to Epstein. MIT was no exception. Epstein had donated $850,000 to MIT’s Media Lab, visited campus many times, and associated with several professors and administrators. Richard Stallman was not among the MIT professors with Epstein ties, and like all decent humans was appalled to learn of Epstein’s heinous crimes.

However, Marvin Minsky, an acclaimed AI pioneer at MIT who passed away in 2016, was an associate of Epstein having been a recipient of Epstein’s research grants. Minsky visited Epstein’s estate in the Virgin Islands where one of Epstein’s 17-year-old victims was “directed to have sex” with him. In response to this and the other revelations, a protest was organized at MIT and an invitation for it was sent to various MIT email lists. Stallman was on one of these and sent a reply-all response that included the following:

The announcement of the Friday event does an injustice to Marvin Minsky: “deceased AI ‘pioneer’ Marvin Minsky (who is accused of assaulting one of Epstein’s victims)” The injustice is in the word “assaulting”. 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… The word “assaulting” presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing… We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates…

RMS simply explained the meaning behind a word. He is very careful about the words he uses. You can look at his glossary and anti-glossary on his website. Specifically about this matter, RMS has called Epstein a serial rapist several times but people accused him of defending Epstein and pedophilia. Something very far from truth.

Some also accuse Stallman of sexual harassment and “assault” which there’s no proof of and as a person who knows him, I can tell very far from truth. They also are annoyed that RMS had a mattress in his room/office at MIT and were seen shirtless, which I don’t know how it is disturbing. If you’re harassed or assaulted by seeing a shirtless person, man or woman, I think you’re the crazy one here.

Now with this short simple backstory, let’s get to what’s happening now.

(Don’t) cancel RMS

Few days ago, RMS announced that he’s back. Many people cheered this decision and announcement and some were upset. Well, many were upset and many are asking FSF board and RMS himself to resign over this decision. Complete idiocy.

This makes me mad not because I’m a fan of RMS’ work but because of idiotic cancel culture that is going on free software world. Misleading media and news, among those who just hate RMS are pushing lots of pressure on FSF and Stallman to make them resign from their jobs.

We should resist this. This is very dangerous. Giving organizations power to control literally the future of free software movement is dangerous. I would support a debate between RMS and anybody who wants to debate him on his claims and statements but quoting only part of his statement out of context to cancel someone is dangerous to all of us.

Imagine this. You say “those who say ‘rape is good’ are bad people.” Then I write a blog post about your statement and quote “rape is good” from you and ask people to cancel you. You literally said the opposite but because I quoted only specific part of your saying out of context, people get mad and try to ruin everything you stand for or have.

RMS is a diamond for free software world and we should keep him. Nobody can lead the movement and the Free Software Foundation better than RMS. I’ve always said, the difference between us and Open Source people is our principals. We stand by our principals and values no matter what.

If we don’t stand by our principals, which are based on justice, we’ll lose everything we have ever fought for. I highly oppose those who ask RMS and/or FSF board to resign.

I’m in process of canceling all my donations to organizations who signed that letter and I’ll stop any help I was providing to them whether they’re individuals or an organization. This is not an effort to cancel them but an effort to not be affiliated with any person or organization that doesn’t care about truth.

I would even cancel my FSF membership if they decide to resign or cancel RMS. A weak organization that doesn’t fight for truth doesn’t deserve any help or support.

Last but not least, I invite to read this great article: #Cancel We The Web?

Ubuntu is a very nice story from Africa. The motivation behind the Ubuntu culture in Africa is that an anthropologist proposed a game to the African tribal children.

He placed a basket of sweets near a tree and made the children stand 100 meters away. Then announced that whoever reaches first, would get all the sweets in the basket.

When he said ‘ready steady go!”, they all held each other’s hands, ran together towards the tree, divided the sweets equally among themselves, ate the sweets and enjoyed it. When the anthropologist asked them why they did so, They answered “Ubuntu.”

Ubuntu meant ‘How can one be happy when the others are sad?’ Ubuntu in their language means “I am because we are”, a strong message for all generations. Let all of us always have this attitude and spread happiness wherever we go. Let’s have a “Ubuntu” Life.

I AM BECAUSE WE ARE.

After WhatsApp updated its privacy terms and millions of users got angry, people started to move from it to Signal and Telegram. It even caused some problems for Telegram and Signal servers as they didn’t expect that much users.

Signal is known for its encryption and privacy and I think they are doing a very good job but I don’t trust them. The thing against Signal is that it’s not really free software. Signal has a code/repository that is published with a free (as in freedom) license but the app itself is not libre.

Signal’s app is not on F-Droid. The only way to get Signal’s app is to download it using Google Play Store. When many people complained, they published an APK which is really really hard to find and is still using Google Play Service, if it’s available on your phone.

Signal doesn’t let you connect to Signal using the app you created yourself. Even if you compile their exact source code, it will only be active at most for 90 days.

But what I use instead of Signal and Telegram? I use Matrix and XMPP. They are decentralized messengers and truly free (as in freedom). With Matrix and XMPP, I have true liberty over my computing and messaging. I can run my own server if I don’t trust others and I can make sure encryption works the way I want.

I can compile/build my own app and know for sure that the app works as it is expected. Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal which have centralized servers, Matrix and XMPP are decentralized and there’s no main server. I know for sure what’s happening on the server (as I can run my own) and I’m sure the app communicates with server exactly how it says so or I want it.

Access to what the company called “our private Chrome APIs” will be blocked starting March 15. Google plans to revoke others’ Chromium-based browsers’ access to a long list of APIs that power such popular services as bookmark and settings synchronization.

“We discovered that some third-party Chromium-based browsers were able to integrate Google features, such as Chrome Sync and Click to Call, that are only intended for Google’s use,” Jochen Eisinger, Chrome engineering director, wrote in a Jan. 15 post to a company blog.

This is good news. I see many people are considering to move to Firefox and Firefox-based browsers which are by and for the people. What Google does with Chromium and Chrome is to force its own preferences as web standards.

However, Firefox is backed by not-for-profit Mozilla and has a mission to bring back the web to people.

I personally use GNU IceCat as my main browser. It’s free software and focuses on privacy and freedom. No need to mention that IceCat is based on Firefox.

The GitHub Blog published a note about how GitHub is now fully available in Iran. This is a very good step, and a nice thing. It should be appreciated. However, that doesn’t change the fact that GitHub can still ban people based on nationality or place they live.

GitHub got a license from the US government to offer GitHub to developers in Iran. This means that OFAC can revoke this license too, at anytime it wants for whatever reason they decide.

Using GitHub, and also GitLab dot com, is a mistake. They blindly obey the authority and will never take side with people. What they value is money, which has no problem in it except for making them side with power instead of people.

Unlike GitHub and GitLab dot com, there are services that are here to provide to people, not power. I can’t say they won’t obey the law if they have to but at least they will fight for people before obeying an authority without question.

Services like Codeberg and Framagit are created with a libre program which let you know host it yourself or change the way they work. They respect people and try to side with you, instead of authority.

I really believe this license will be revoked in future and many people will get hurt again. I hope I’m wrong though.