back to article Director, deputy director, CTO of Free Software Foundation quit after Stallman installation

Three key staff members of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) have resigned following the organization’s decision to reinstall Richard Stallman as a board member. Executive director John Sullivan, deputy director John Hsieh, and chief technology officer Ruben Rodriguez all quit at a board meeting on Monday. A short …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Stallman said he wasn't going to resign. He might be the only person left on the board soon!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      At which point you just do a clone and make your own fork

  2. robert lindsay

    what's the upside?

    Not to be picky, but what exactly does RMS bring to the FSF now that's worth all this?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: what's the upside?

      Exactly. Which begs the next question: what's REALLY going on?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: what's the upside?

        "what's REALLY going on?"

        I, too wonder that. A part of me hopes that they are finally getting sick of the Politically Correct set getting in the way of actually getting work done.

        I fear it is something more nefarious. Lots of money involved.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what's the upside?

      Guru status. Absolute loyalty. I'm not being fasicetious. I think it is a logical explanation for observed behavior.

      1. Gordon 10

        Re: what's the upside?

        Agreed. The FSF appears to have confused their mission with the establishment and perpetuation of a cult of personality around RMS. No one person should be bigger than the cause.

        They never end well for all the cult touches.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: what exactly does RMS bring?

      Nothing. He's become a parasite using it to binge out on conferences. He's well past his sell-by date and has contributed nothing useful for years.

  3. FuzzyTheBear

    FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

    He should just resign before the whole FSF becomes a meaningless empty shell. His presence is a shame to the FSF and really .. i can't blame everyone for wanting out.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

      That word "everyone" ... I don't think it means what you think it means.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

        Everyone who's not a big fan of pedophilia Jake.

        Starting to wonder what goes on at your remote ranch....

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

          Stay classy, attack his argument, don't smear jake because his view is different from yours.

          Especially don't use such abhorrent allegations, when simply standing up for weirdo having "wrongthink".

          RMS has Q to answer about his behaviour towards adult women, that's a real thing with attestation.

          Conversly writing "wrongthink" in a poorly phrased manner devoid of the instinctive note of revulsion that neuro-typicals would feel, is thoughtcrime.

          It's interesting that you are outraged by what he "thought/wrote" rather than publically did.

          I'm not defending RMS. But him pestering women is an actual thing, that should be addressed, his opinions can be ignored if you dislike them.

          He has contributed, and the world (our part at least) knows his name and more importantly his ideas.

          You don't see fit to put a name to your own ideas.

          Your attack of the mildest rebuke with baseless insinuation, suggests you view the concept of harming children as some sort of trump card in argument, rather than a wound for the future and a stain on the past.

          Do better, ffs.

          1. Jim Mitchell

            Re: FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

            "RMS has Q to answer about his behaviour towards adult women"

            Wait, what does Q have to do with this? Is RMS a follower of Q? Hmm, ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ....R! Now it makes sense!

            where did I put that tin foil .....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: FSF representing who ? .. or what ?

            The FSF is, essentially, a PR organization. Writing insensitive "wrongthink" is bad PR. Therefore, RMS is bad for the FSF. This doesn't mean he's a bad person, necessarily. Just that he's a bad public face for the organization.

  4. sixit
    Black Helicopters

    I met...

    ... one of his ex-girlfriends who he'd made paranoid that he was snooping on her. That was 20 years ago. I had to check her computer for snoopware, etc. and didn't find any. But whatever he did to her was hella serious. I had been a fan of his up to that point, and the Epstein stance simply confirmed that girlfriend's experience with him.

    FSF will soon stand for Farewall, Software Foundation!

    1. Sin2x

      Re: I met...

      Looking at your previous comments' stylistics, I can't help but think that you weren't born that much earlier than 20 years ago. But we are on the Internet, and nobody can tell if you are a dog, right? Right?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: I met...

      Perhaps she was always paranoid. Ockham's razor suggests it as the most likely option.

      1. Gordon 10

        Re: I met...

        @Jake. I dont think Occam's Razor says what you think it says. The simplest explanation, with plenty of "prior art" to back it up, is that Stallman is/was has some douchebag opinions towards women - particularly young ones. It takes very little to assume that attitude bleeds over into actions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I met...

      Or Foot Scrap Fetishists

  5. Lennart Sorensen

    So the board regrets it but not enough to undo it? I guess any board that would let RMS rejoin will be too stubborn to admit they made a mistake, and given RMS said he isn't going to resign, I guess the only way he is leaving is that someone kicks him out, and clearly that won't be the current board planing to do that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > So the board regrets it but not enough to undo it?

      The board regrets the situation. The situation being that a person was hounded out of their job on false pretenses by a baying mob, which has now returned to harass anyone publicly associated with the FSF board.

      1. Gordon 10

        Give some evidence of these false pretences you refer to?

        There is plenty of RMS douchebaggy stuff in the public record.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It is not on me to provide evidence, it is on the accusers. In almost every case, the claims against him are based on misreporting, misrepresentations, hearsay, and accusations given without evidence.

          From what I can tell, the only believable accusations are that he made some women "uncomfortable". Nevertheless, that is not a reason for such persecution IMO - even in cases where such discomfort were not caused by their own assumptions (eg. the mattress), misunderstandings (eg. language pedantry) or biases (eg. asking someone out while not being very physically attractive).

  6. Mark192

    Something stinks

    I'd be sacked for behaving as he's done. What does he bring that their willing to install him in a leadership position?

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Something stinks

      Really ? And in many jurisdictions you've have grounds for taking your now ex employer to the cleaners for unfair dismissal.

      So what exactly has he done ?

      No, not the suggestion that he believes in the rape of children - because what he wrote does not actually support that IF you read and comprehend what he actually wrote rather than the biased misquotes being used by the lynch mob.

      And no, not the suggestion that the girl in the Epstein business was willing - because, again, he didn't write any such thing IF you read what he actually wrote and not the biased misquotes being used by the lynch mob.

      So far, the only accusations that stand up to any scrutiny are that a) he's a personality vacuum and b) he's not a nice guy to be around if you're a woman. That latter bit may or may not be true - I don't know, I wasn't there, I can only go by what is being said/written about him. So it could be fair to criticise him for that - but mostly that's not what is being used against him, it's the outright lies being made up by deliberate selective out of context quotes that are being used.

  7. Sin2x

    Good riddance, corporate shills.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Stupid is as stupid does

    Stallman made a few stupid comments, possibly illustrating stupid opinions ... but is this treatment of a stupid person any improvement? When you do stupid things then you need to work at improving things, thus reversing the stupidity, not recovering from it. But this whole thing just illustrates how rich people think they can just skip over their stupidity and move on without any consequences - as a result the rest of the board is saying, "Damn it, we're not going to be that stupid."

    Hopefully this will not damage the FSF in the long term but it's a mess right now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid is as stupid does

      Stallman philosphy is all about 'let's see how far I can go exploiting others while I make them believe it's for their own good...' which looks suspiciously akin a religion.

      1. Sin2x

        Re: Stupid is as stupid does

        Care to share a single example of aforementioned exploitation?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Stupid is as stupid does

          Concur. Just one exploitation example, LDS. And no, "I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend" doesn't count.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid is as stupid does

      Apparently you missed the first several acts.

      Run down one of the long form articles that has the decades long thread of creepy posts regarding consent, the law, and the underage. Those were his first several strikes on his "your not allowed to be management" card. The toxic work environment claims, living in the office, that's a batch more. The last blowout where he was forced out the first time was more than straw that broke the camels back, he had already broken the camel into four or five pieces by that point.

      This has nothing to do with the decades of programming work and advocacy Stallman put in over the years. This has everything to do with limiting the damage that someone who has grown detached from the reality of running a non-profit organization in the real world. The open software movement must address the decades of looking the other way, and actually start changing thing things, not keep making empty promises to do better. Putting people like this back in senior management positions without any real change on their part is the opposite of that.

      Nina Reiser's murderer is up for parole in a couple of years. Her husband Hans murdered her, and after trying to cover his tracks, losing at trial, and being convicted of 1st degree murder, he was given a plea bargain by investigators in return for him leading them to her body. Despite being the subject of several long form articles and at least one documentary, she does not have her own Wiki entry. She is treated as a footnote on her murderers webpage. Because he was a prominent bay area software coder. Her husband was another of Software Libre's legendary ego's getting into deranged flame wars with other devs and and threatening people. 15-20 years ago those warnings weren't heard and a woman died. What's changed? Stallman probably isn't going to kill anyone, but that's not really the bar is it? If the board can't see that, then Stallman isn't the only leadership problem that needs to be addressed.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Stupid is as stupid does

        Hey, AC, do you know what "non sequitur" means?

      2. ecadre

        Re: Stupid is as stupid does

        "The open software movement must ..."

        RMS isn't a part of the "open source movement", so that just goes to show what you know. And the last paragraph is utterly offensive and vile. WTF has that got to do with anything?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    We need a new foundation

    This isn't me-too or cancel culture.

    On his personal website he once wrote "I think that everyone age 14 or above ought to take part in sex, though not indiscriminately. (Some people are ready earlier.) It is unnatural for humans to abstain from sex past puberty, and while I wouldn't try to pressure anyone to participate, I certainly encourage everyone to do so.

    Or “There is little evidence to justify the widespread assumption that willing participation in pedophilia hurts children.”

    We joked about Musk and 'pedo' during the submarine incident but Stallman is no joke.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: We need a new foundation

      How about reading the entire thing, in context, including the retraction, instead of cherry-picking the bit that makes him into a monster, and then using semantic tricks to make it sound even worse?

    2. TheMeerkat

      Re: We need a new foundation

      That is a personal opinion. Why should people be punished for expressing opinions?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We need a new foundation

        First of all, the Free Software Foundation is a foundation under US law and in US law you can be fired for your opinions. The US concept of Free Speech protects against government interference in expressing your opinion but offers no protection in private matters such as between an organisation and its employees. Here in Europe the concept of Freedom of Expression is often a bit more all-encompassing, but is also not without limits.

        Secondly, without wishing to make any statement about the specific RMS case, there comes a point where the opinions of a prominent figure in an organisation start to reflect badly on the organisation, especially when these opinions are made publicly and outside of the normal remit of an organisation.

        Now, if a prominent FSF board member admits to being a Chelsea fan then that is outside of the FSF remit (and obviously shameful) but no grounds for serious consideration. Opinions about sex with minors is a different topic and that is where someone would set foot on thin ice. The court of public opinion is a harsh one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We need a new foundation

          "First of all, the Free Software Foundation is a foundation under US law and in US law you can be fired for your opinions." - ac

          Yes, but in 1 state this is only during the probationary period, and you can find the rest of the restrictions that make your statement false here:

          1. Jim Mitchell

            Re: We need a new foundation

            Generally, "at-will employment" means the employer can fire you for no reason, but not for certain reasons. Having an opinion on pedophilia is not one of those reasons.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: We need a new foundation

          The US concept of Free Speech protects against government interference in expressing your opinion but offers no protection in private matters such as between an organisation and its employees.

          You're wrong about the First Amendment.

          However, in a case like this I'm reasonably sure (though IANAL) that the 1st would not apply, particularly not to the question of membership on a foundation's board of directors, which is not a normal employment situation in any case. Membership on a foundation board in the US would generally be controlled by the foundation's bylaws and by applicable law such as the Tax Reform Act of 1969, assuming we're talking about a registered private foundation or public charity under 501(c)(3) or similar.

          I don't know what the FSF's legal status is, or how their governance works, but unless their bylaws are strange indeed, it's unlikely a board member has much protection against being dismissed by the rest of the board or by the membership, if the membership has voting rights.

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: We need a new foundation

      Though in some (NOT all) US states its OK for person of 14 (or even younger) to have sex with someone of similar age (though quite tight constraints on how close in age they are) i.e. means teens of similar age unlikely to get legal hassle even if below the nominal age of consent. Note this is not a licence for a much older person to do anything as that's still massively illegal, its just a protection for teens fooling around with other teens really - essentially acknowledging possibility of teens wanting sex at age below age of consent.

      Shows the need to consider any age / power imbalances - lots of teens have sex with other teens (both similar age & below "official" age of consent) but that is totally different from someone considerably older going with a 14 year old.

      Context is everything

  10. Andrew Williams

    And not one of them will ever stop using stuff he made or contributed to.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      In the real world it’s possible for good things to be done be people who aren’t very nice. RMS and Assange are prime examples. Funny how many people are unable to grasp this.

      1. James O'Shea Silver badge

        A lot of people ignore the bad sides of their heroes. We see this with supporters of Trump. We see this with supporters of Farage.

        We see this with supporters of RMS.

        1. jake Silver badge


          I see the bad side of rms ... I also see that he's being victimized by a bunch of loud-mouthed idiots who refuse to look at the big picture in context.

          1. Citizen of Nowhere

            Re: Nonsense.

            Anyone who sees a different big picture than you is apparently a loud-mouthed idiot. Which is also a useful contextualising element.

          2. WolfFan

            Re: Nonsense.

            What possible context could justify those comments about sex with 14 year olds? Please be specific. I really want to see this.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Nonsense.

              Please note the bit where he says "not indiscriminately". He's not recommending that you shag 14 year olds. He's pointing out that 14 year olds can, and do, shag each other. It's normal, and it's natural. You can't argue with the onset of puberty. If you try, their hormones will laugh at you and they will do it anyway. There is a reason that Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet) was not quite 14.

              Context matters, people.

            2. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

              Re: Nonsense.

              What possible context could justify those comments about sex with 14 year olds

              Which comments ? The ones he actually made, and did at some point retract ? Or the ones being made up by the lynch mod ?

              Because, if you read what he actually wrote in full and stop to actually think rather than just go "child abuse, must be a bad 'un" then you'll realise that he did not at any point suggest what he is being accused of suggesting. And bear in mind that 14 (the arbitrary age he picked) is above the age of consent in some countries, and only just below the age of consent in many countries that we consider "civilised". The big debate should not be about what some arbitrary - and it is very arbitrary - number written in a statute book should be, but what truly constitutes consent once there is a question of one party having influence over another. Simply put, much of the aggression seems to be into someone asking if that arbitrary number (which varies considerably around the world, and even within the US) is a reasonable number to have chosen.

              And remember that things change. Back in ancient Roman times a "girl" would be considered an old maid if not married with a family on the way at 14 - but then life expectancy was only into something like the 30s.

              But I don't expect any rational response to this.

        2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Just listen to the BBC Podcast Evil Genius.

    2. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Irrelevant. The list of those who were thoroughly repellant human beings with which I would not go near on a personal level but who were very good at what they did is a long one. Wagner was a thoroughly evil man; he was also an extremely talented composer who wrote some of the greatest works of the late 19th century. We should boycott The Ring Cycle because Wagner was a sick puppy? Ford was a fascist; his methods revolutionized industry in the US and the world. We should boycott anything made by assembly line methods, especially cars, particularly Fords, because Ford was a racist ant-semite? Newton stole credit for other's work, most notably the calculus. We should ignore the laws of motion or gravitation because he was an unscrupulous thieving bastard?

      YHes, Stallman has done a lot of work which is of great benefit to a lot of people. And yes, he is not someone I'd willingly associate with. Not after his remarks about 14-year-olds, as noted upthread here. And yes, if I had been contributing money to the FSF, I'd stop doing that. I would not like to have my money contributing to him. The bad outweighs the good, in my opinion. Yours may differ. I would not dream of preventing you from supporting him, just as I would not dream of stopping opera fans from going to see some Wagner. But I'm not supporting him.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Yes we should - personally I reject the uncertainty principle because Heisenberg was a Nazi. All my colleagues who need a particle's position and momentum measured simultaneously come to me.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Actually, that is EXACTLY what this current cancel-culture fetish is heading towards.

        Right now, today, as I speak, the loud-mouthed mob is in the process of trying to convince everyone to rename everything named after Sir Francis Drake, because he supported slavery. They also want his name expunged from the history books in schools. And that's just one example.

        Mind you, the idiots haven't really thought it out ... For example, the town of Fairfax down in Marin renamed Sir Francis Drake Blvd because of this ... But they completely ignore the fact that their entire town was named after Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron ... who was born into a slave-holding family owning acrage in Virginia.

        1. ragnar

          Link please. I haven't been able to google anything about wanting to remove Sir Francis Drake from textbooks.

          1. stiine Silver badge






            is this enough?

            1. TheFifth

              All of those links are about renaming streets and a school. Nothing about removing him from the history books.

              The only people I've seen who actually want to censor history are the anti-woke brigade. As soon as any of the UK's real history is discussed, warts and all, they claim it's pandering to BLM and the 'woke agenda'. Just look at some of the social media comments about the recent "Britain's most historic towns" series on Channel 4. I saw some pretty horrid abuse thrown at Prof Alice Roberts on Twitter for including references to the slave trade in the series. They seem to want to brush all that under the carpet because it was 'years ago'.

              From what I can see, far from wanting these people removed from text books, people want the unquestioning admiration of historical figures stopped (i.e. buildings and streets named after them, statues etc.) and the actual real history to be taught more, not less.

              1. jake Silver badge

                "Nothing about removing him from the history books."

                And now I can't find links to what I was talking about.

                It was on the news on DearOldTelly, early last August[0], for about a week on and off. It consisted of several supposed "experts" on childhood learning stating outright that we must completely erase all aspects of our racist history (or at least hide it from the children and other non-researchers), because teaching kids what their Great Grandparents were up to is actively promoting institutional racism. A couple even went on to claim this was a form of child abuse. I've heard the suggestion on and off in relation to Sir Francis Drake, Fr. Junípero Serra, and other contentious historical figures ever since.

                I've dropped notes to my local news stations, asking if they have any archives of this. If I hear back, I'll post links.

                It reminded me of the Texas and Tennessee branches of the Tea Party's attempts to re-write history books to white-wash slavery about 15 years ago. I couldn't believe I was hearing virtually the same thing from supposed liberals.

                First they burn books. Then they kill people.

                [0] The only reason I know the rough date is because I was canning the first round of last year's tomatoes and had the television news on as background radiation. When I heard it, I damn near dropped my knife!

        2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Ah, that loud-mouthed mob, with its single, indivisible purpose. No wonder it gets so much done.

        3. Terry Barnes

          Show where people are trying to remove him from the history books. You must have a link and some evidence or you wouldn’t have said it, right? And if you don’t, then what are we to make of the rest of your posts?

        4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Yawn. The hysteria over "cancel culture" is exactly the same as the hysteria over "political correctness" during the Culture Wars of the late '80s and early '90s. You "cancel culture!" pearl-clutchers should take heart from the obvious fact that the Culture Wars clearly did nothing to temper the strain of virulent know-nothing conservatism in the US. There will be no shortage of panicking idiots fretting over "tradition" in the next generation.

          A bigger problem is the "cancel culture" dogwhistle is, of course, deployed in an effort to squelch counter-speech, not to protect it, even as its fans drape themselves in the mantle of protecting offensive expression. Masnick and others have done a fine job of documenting and explaining this.

          In short, bitching about "cancel culture" just demonstrates immaturity of thinking and a poor grasp of recent US cultural history (or a Hawley-style mendacious and mercenary attempt at demagoguery, or both). Seeing an adult engage in it is a bit of an embarrassing spectacle.

          1. Terry Barnes


            Indeed. These people don’t want freedom of speech. They want freedom from consequences. But only for themselves.

    3. Terry Barnes

      People still use the hospitals Jimmy Saville did fund-raising for. What’s your point?

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. x 7

    So what relevance

    does the FSF actually have? Is it needed, can it be replaced?

    The only time most people hear of it is when Stalman offers more self-publicity

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what relevance

      The FSF is the copyright holder and steward of the GPL family of licenses, and have the explicit right of releasing new versions of the GPL licenses which in many cases could be retroactively applied (see: "or later" clauses). Thus the FSF cannot practically be replaced without relicensing all (L/A)GPL software to another license governed by a different foundation.

      Apparently the articles of the FSF were written in such a way that, even if the entire board were replaced by evil corporate replicants, they would still be duty-bound to work in the best interests of Free Software. But even so, I would much rather the FSF stay in the same ideological hands as it always has, and anyone who wants a different focus for the FSF to start their own organisation.

      1. AVee

        Re: So what relevance

        That, and it also has the hugely successful Hurd operation system...

  13. steelpillow Silver badge

    Fête Stallman Foundation

    Always wondered what FSF stood for...

  14. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Who was there first ?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I sometimes despair for our profession

    I've worked in tech in a variety of roles including development and some serious mainframe tech roles for a manufacture.

    Starting out there was a 40% 60% split in the dev teams I worked in, that has gone down and down with every decade. I've made part of my approach as I moved to management roles making sure my teams were accepting of diversity, that did lead me to have to challenge some of my own biases (not least never trust someone who wont get drunk with you). The appalling thing about the conversation in this thread is that not one other commenter has raised the issue of how this makes our female colleagues feel. This isn't the 1970s when some areas were the wild west, we are an established profession. What we do is important and affects peoples lives but if we do not have an inclusive workforce then we will continue to develop products which just work for white males with no disabilities. There are too many examples of large developments or even whole technologies which demonstrate developer bias, just look at the whole debacle around AI face recognition training discriminating against non-white people. If we do not work together to make the teams we work in comfortable places for non-white people women, trans and others those teams will become irrelevant. If you don't want to do this don't be too surprised when the products you work on become the next myspace or Yahoo.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: I sometimes despair for our profession

      "never trust someone who wont get drunk with you"

      Have an icon or six

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like