"Linusgate" Leaked: Over 250 Messages About Code of Conduct Complaints Against Linus Torvalds

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Debian ‘canceling’ the founder of Linux is no “small potatoes”; and considering the reason (or what this is done for; an expression of an opinion) we probably should be alarmed about ramifications for free speech

Original story by techrights.org. Originally published 2020-09-03.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Techrights-linus-canceled.jpg

Note: The complaints and the event itself happened in 2014.

THE opinions of Linus Torvalds on a lot of topics I agree with. This includes software patents, the GPL (except GPLv3) and a bunch of other stuff. On many topics I disagree, which is understandable because no pair of people will agree on everything. Torvalds does not like the FSF; this isn’t a secret and over 12 years ago I exchanged some E-mails with him (it was around the time GPLv3 was discussed). He has every right to express that opinion, even if someone felt ‘hurt’ or ‘uncomfortable’ with that opinion. This is what free speech is about, but not everyone shares that view; to some people, only ‘comfortable’ or 100% politically-correct messages are tolerable, acceptable and permissible. So it’s basically a trap, or a sort of ‘set-up’ for canceling or banishing people.

The above message is one of very many (253). That’s from private (high-level) mailing lists of Debian, highlighting what happened after Torvalds had given his talk at DebConf (we shared some videos from that talk last week). We don’t wish to remark on pertinent E-mails; readers can decide for themselves and we’ll remain objective, except for the part where we state free speech comes first and is essential for software freedom. This is a bit of a cautionary tale about Codes of Conduct, which are controlled by or enforced by large corporations inside the Linux Foundation.

Using IRC we’ve studied some of these pertinent E-mails, as a small group, prior to publication. Ryan spotted the part which said: “But a Code of Conduct is only any use if it is enforced, and it is only fair if it is enforced equally on everyone.”

Ryan, who recently witnessed Fedora banning longtime contributors (technical people who actually love and use GNU/Linux), said that the CoC “gets enforced by a lot of nasty trolls who somehow “develop” Fedora from Macs and Edge on Windows 10.” (The enforcers do not even use GNU/Linux themselves!)

“I wonder if the situation in Debian is getting that bad,” he added. “Ubuntu and a lot of distributions are downstream from Debian, and it would be tragic if Microsoft has managed to foist a Code of Conduct on them that is being carried out in the same fashion.”

Ryan then explained why he left Fedora: “I mean, the only point of those “developers” is to character assassinate valuable community members and disappear them. Then your project loses assets and gains trolls. These people have alarmingly been on the rise in Fedora and it was quite a bit of the reason I said, “screw this, I’m out.” It’s all people that we’ve never even seen before who have taken positions in the Fedora project, bowling over community members who have been active… sometimes going back to the Red Hat Linux days.”

Ryan quoted the E-mail which said: “Linus described the FSF as `bigots’. That is clearly beyond the pale.”

Ryan’s response: “So what? He’s allowed to have an opinion, even if it’s unpopular. That’s an accepted norm in civilized countries. You can have an unpopular opinion and, you know what… it doesn’t matter if other people agree. The Freedom of Speech that civilized countries have is specifically to protect controversial opinions to the point where it’s case law in the United States that it would be absurd to presume otherwise. Why do you need an amendment to protect speech that everyone agrees with or is only in line with community norms?

“It’s not like he popped in and said something egregious here. Just disagree and walk away. Unpopular opinions can carry their own punishment, obviously. But the government can’t get involved, and if it does, it’s unconstitutional. There’s a reason why the Communist Control Act has never been enforced against an American citizen. It would be struck down immediately. Even in the 50s.

“It’s ridiculous that people have had any kind of a war or an arms race over what sort of economic system to use, but that’s people for you. Insane. Bringing the world to the brink of annihilation because they use one economic system and you use one that ended up with Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates owning more money than 90% of Americans while our country has been hollowed out by Trump.”

Ryan then quoted from E-mails: “Debian should make a public statement that Linus will not be welcome at Debian events in future. [...] Also, Debian owes the FSF an apology. That apology should be at least as public as the offence. I’m unaware of any such public apology or statement. [...] If I’m understanding this correctly, you’re suggesting that Debian do its best to antagonize Linus Torvalds, much as it has already succeeded in seriously antagonizing Richard M. Stallman.”

“Yeah,” said Ryan, “they wanted to sideline RMS and Linus and mission accomplished. The GNU project isn’t in control of GNU and Linus has no real authority over Linux anymore. Open revolt against GNU was happening before RMS left. I remember that Nano left and then came back. Various projects defied the official statement that they wouldn’t use Github because it didn’t work without non-Free non-trivial JavaScript. Git was designed to be decentralized. The very idea of having to run any sort of JavaScript to get at a repository is offensive. It’s been known for many years that intelligent people can be quite insolent, honestly. It’s not necessarily that they don’t know there are boundaries, but they’re more likely to see them as stupid/trifling, and therefore an annoyance. You know, something to pick at. If it seems that stupid people get ahead it’s because they aren’t smart enough to know they aren’t smart enough, and they take more risks because they’re not thinking about their own limitations and how it could blow up on them. So there’s a lot of incompetent people who fail upwards in this world. President Trump, for example.”

Linux isn’t at GitHub (yet), but Microsoft is still working towards that. Speech and code are both policed by Microsoft at GitHub. Censorship is very commonplace there.

A Code of Conduct was later used against Theodore Ts’o, trying to somehow associate him with rape, based on a rather banal opinion expressed about a decade before the Code of Conduct even existed!

The input from Theodore Ts’o is shown below with some further context (it is also added below/above). We’ll express an opinion in a later article.

Techrights-tso-coc.jpg

3.75
(16 votes)

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Anonymous user #1

24 days ago
Score -1++
Eww, Techrights...
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Anonymous user #2

24 days ago
Score 0++
Black Lists Matter
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Anonymous user #3

24 days ago
Score 0++
using a centralized and very censored platform for open source is a mistake, and people should not use github for anything other than creating something and not commenting anything in it, EVER.
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Anonymous user #4

24 days ago
Score 0++
Oy vey
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Anonymous user #5

24 days ago
Score 0++

lets remove everyone good from free/open software

what a great idea
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Anonymous user #6

24 days ago
Score 0++
/g/
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Anonymous user #7

24 days ago
Score 0++
good goy
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Anonymous user #8

24 days ago
Score 0++
Um... Sweetie. I've had enough. Since you can't behave, I'm putting your... ugh, "microkernel" in the chastity cage. Richard will be keeping the key until you apologize.
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Anonymous user #9

24 days ago
Score 0++
WTF I love TempleOS now
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Anonymous user #10

24 days ago
Score 0++
love you all /g/
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Anonymous user #11

24 days ago
Score -1++
Based Linus wrecking nigger SJW's.
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Anonymous user #12

24 days ago
Score 1++

As noted in the article there's an increase in people supporting censorship and "cancel culture" among open source projects. Those people all have the same profiles, their contributions to the project is either trivial or minimal, some even never contributed at all. They get very vocal regarding political issues that aren't related to the project, and campaign so the project invests a lot of energy on issues that are identity politic and not code.

Software should be about code. Foss software should be about code and how to stay foss.

Nobody seems to know from where these people come from, but they're doing more harm than good and are dangerous for the project, thus they should be ignored unless they're talking about code.
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Anonymous user #13

23 days ago
Score 1++
Everybody seems to gloss over the fact that this happened 6 years ago and the world didn't burn as a result. This sort of sensitive discussions are precisely why debian-private exists (it's not "high level", it's just not public outside Debian, afaik all the maintainers are on it). This article tries very hard to be inflammatory by unearthing old history and presenting it as current, and also by presenting -private as some sort of cabal (I haven't heard TINC jokes in more than a decade).
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Anonymous user #14

23 days ago
Score 0++

I think the discussion comes down to the difference between entitled and deserved. As a sentient/human everyone is entitled to respect (apparent CoC opinion) whether or not they deserve it by their actions (Linus apparent opinion).

So as long as someone treats everyone with respect, even when they think they don't deserve it, what is the problem? Am I missing something?
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Anonymous user #15

23 days ago
Score 0++
Makes me wonder, who is behind this post
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Gnu4ever

22 days ago
Score 0++
Stop wondering, goy
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Anonymous user #16

23 days ago
Score 0++
Bloody lefty nonsense. I am not going to use Linux anymore after this.
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Anonymous user #30

21 days ago
Score 0++

Use Linux, just don't use Debian. Microsoft wants to control your computer to the point it owns it, and is moving the EULA in the direction of being able to cancel you for doing things they don't like. FreeBSD hires "diversity consultants." Apple and Google aren't much better, might be worse even.

There are lots of distros for Linux, find one run by people less crazy. Increasingly hard, but it's your best option.
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Anonymous user #17

23 days ago
Score 0++
Somebody digging out things that happen 6 years ago just to say bad things about Linus?
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Anonymous user #18

23 days ago
Score 0++
Instead of spending time on this, spend the time on da' code... people are what they are, even having a code of conduct is fucking non sense, who are you to tell any one what to do, to think or to tell.
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Anonymous user #19

23 days ago
Score 0++
Just for the record, free speech is intended to protect individuals who criticize governement from government retribution.
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Anonymous user #27

22 days ago
Score 0++
It's also supposed to be a core tenet of western civilization, one which we pride ourselves on, and without it you wind up with a culture of wokescolds and banishments.
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Anonymous user #20

23 days ago
Score 0++
Looks more like a campaign for corporate control over free software.
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Anonymous user #21

23 days ago
Score 0++

"Just for the record, free speech is intended to protect individuals who criticize governement from government retribution."

Just for the record, it also goes way beyond that. If you don't think so, you've been had.
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Anonymous user #22

23 days ago
Score -1++

The "leaker" behind that story has gotten shown the door in Debian last year for harassment of many people in the project. Debian bug #953378 has some details, (AFAIK this is the only public statement of the project in this case)

This person continues to harass the project since then on every opportunity by telling half-truths and pulling those half-truths out of context as a part of his revenge campaigns.

BTW, the leaker got expelled from many other (FOSS) projects as well, for the same reasons: harassment.

So be careful if you read from him. He's a hater.
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Anonymous user #27

22 days ago
Score 0++
To you dipshits, any enthusiastic response is harassment. Fuck, you probably think I'm harassing you right now.
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Anonymous user #23

23 days ago
Score 0++

Steve Langasek, Ian Jackson and Patty Langasek are the biggest fucking idiots on the planet. Pearl-clutching asshats on behalf of the FSF. It's especially funny that Steve and Ian is/was employed by Canonical, whose lead community manager personally attacked RMS.

It's also pretty grossly inappropriate for a wife and husband to work with these issues together, as they can(as shown here) band together. Their roles should be kept far away from each other.

Jesus what a mess, it's like observing how sausages are made.
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Anonymous user #24

23 days ago
Score 1++

Oi, leave it to the code. F Microsucks for censoring GitHub. F bastards that make the world worse. If someone starts discriminating against others due to race, gender (LGBTQ etc included), heritage, opinion, etc- they can get fckd.

Arseholes be told to stop being arseholes, real contributors be told to keep up the good work. End the drama, it doesn't help.
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Anonymous user #25

23 days ago
Score 0++
It would be hard to argue in a reasonable way that his approach is bad. Caustic? yes, but is that bad? For submitted kernel code we need people to remember being chastised so they don't waste people's time or slip in bad code.
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Anonymous user #26

22 days ago
Score 2++
anyone who supports CoC's and want limitations on speech are mentally ill and no different than white nationalist.
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Anonymous user #26

22 days ago
Score 0++

freedom of speech isn't to protect those who's speech everyone agrees with, society deems acceptable, or the ruling party deems ok. its to protect speech that people don't like. you don't need freedom of speech to protect speech people say is ok.

only control freaks hate freedom of speech.
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Anonymous user #28

22 days ago
Score 1++

c a n c e r c u l t u r e

Bring back the toe fungus guy!
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Anonymous user #29

22 days ago
Score 0++
"Linux is dying" -- the Linux is Dying Troll.
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