Is LibrePlanet Safe?

Eric Schultz // Dec 14th, 2018


During the session submission period for LibrePlanet 2019, a significant number of former speakers, including myself, jointly contacted the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Board of Directors. In our message, included below, we expressed concern to the Board over inconsistencies in how the LibrePlanet Safe Space Policy is applied to members of the Board itself.

During discussion with the Board over the next few weeks, the group expressed the critical need for LibrePlanet’s Safe Space Policy to apply to all members of the Board, including Richard M Stallman (RMS), FSF Board President and FSF Founder. While a small amount of progress was made, the following specific actions we requested are still unaddressed:

  1. That the Board explicitly clarify that if RMS violates the Safe Space Policy again* organizers will step up and impartially apply the rules to him.
  2. That the Board appoint a disinterested ombudsman or committee with the power to oversee and handle safe space policy complaints, and enforcement, including for Safe Space Policy complaints against members of the Board.

On November 8, the Board told us they were working on a response but that it would take time. It is now mid-December and the FSF has not yet committed to those two actions. In order to ensure that the LibrePlanet is a safe, inclusive environment, our original letter said we would make the original message public. We are doing so now.

While we consider both of the above requests crucial to ensuring a safe and inclusive LibrePlanet, we are particularly concerned by the fact that the board, after a month of deliberation, did not commit to explicitly saying that the Safe Space Policy would be applied to RMS as well, if he were to violate it. Without such a commitment, we have deep reservations about the safety of LibrePlanet participants and this fact will negatively influence each of us in our continued participation in LibrePlanet.

* There have been multiple instances of inappropriate behavior over the years at LibrePlanet. For example, there is a recording of RMS explicitly saying that as president of the FSF he is not subject to the rules in the Q&A of this talk: https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/the-gnu-philosophy-ethics-beyond-ethics/. In a number of cases, RMS has taken over sessions through loud disruptions, including those of other FSF board members. Signatories are also aware of additional instances of RMS violating the Safe Space Rules.


Dear FSF Board,

We write to you as former speakers and keynoters at LibrePlanet. We are concerned that the Code of Conduct for the event is not applied evenly, and in particular that Officers and Board Members seem to be exempt.[1] This creates an intimidating and hostile environment for attendees, speakers and potential future participants who hear that unchecked harassment is allowed at the event.

This situation is not good for the future of the free software movement. We're writing because we are reluctant to participate in and promote an event where speakers or audience members may be subject to verbal or even other types of harassment.

Can we count on the FSF's Board of Directors to direct staff to apply the Code of Conduct to everyone at LibrePlanet, without exception? What steps will the FSF take to ensure that this is the case? We look forward to your reply and to hopefully being able to promote and participate in LibrePlanet 2019, without the reservations and misgivings we currently hold. If this remains unaddressed, many of us will not submit talks, and we will make this letter public.

Signatories:

Asheesh Laroia
Bassam Kurdali
Christopher Lemmer Webber
Deb Nicholson
Denver Gingerich
Eric Schultz
Kade Crockford
Mad Price Ball
Matthew Garrett
Mike Linksvayer
Morgan Lemmer-Webber
Neil McGovern
Paul R. Tagliamonte
Stefano Zacchiroli
Sumana Harihareswara
Tom Callaway
Tom Marble
Wendy Bolm
...and other signatories who were named to the board but do not wish to be public at this time

[1] There have been multiple instances of inappropriate behavior over the years at LibrePlanet. For example, there is a recording of RMS explicitly saying that as president of the FSF he is not subject to the rules in the Q&A of this talk: https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/the-gnu-philosophy-ethics-beyond-ethics/.


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