The open source community is in shock as Richard Stallman, the creator of the GNU operating system and author of the influential GNU manifesto, has stepped down as president of the Free Software Foundation.
The move comes after growing anger surrounding comments Stallman made in an MIT email thread about a victim of Jeffery Epstein, Virginia Giuffre.
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The comments were shared on Medium (opens in new tab), and appear to show Stallman downplaying the severity of Giuffre’s abuse and arguing if it should be considered sexual assault.
Condemnation over Stallman’s remarks were swift, leading to the Free Software Foundation announcing that he has resigned as FSF president and from the board of directors.
Richard M. Stallman has resigned as FSF president and from the board of directors: https://t.co/4Z8kyrgBuvSeptember 17, 2019
A tarnished legacy
Richard Stallman wrote the GNU Manifesto (opens in new tab), which was published in 1985, with many people crediting it as one of the founding principles of the free software movement.
Whereas non-free (proprietary) software was – in Stallman’s eyes – a way to divide users and prevent them from helping each other, free and open source software was designed to help anyone use the software – and share code – without breaking the law.
As Stallman notes in the manifesto, “By working on and using GNU rather than proprietary programs, we can be hospitable to everyone and obey the law. In addition, GNU serves as an example to inspire and a banner to rally others to join us in sharing. This can give us a feeling of harmony which is impossible if we use software that is not free.”
Famous free software, such as Linux and Libre Office, may not exist if it wasn’t for the manifesto. Sadly, Stallman’s recent behaviour has tarnished his reputation amongst the community.
The Free Software Foundation (opens in new tab) has issued a statement (opens in new tab) saying that “On September 16, 2019, Richard M. Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation, resigned as president and from its board of directors. The board will be conducting a search for a new president, beginning immediately. Further details of the search will be published on fsf.org.“
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Via Engadget (opens in new tab)