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News: Call to remove RMS from FSF

codemouse92 profile image Jason C. McDonald Updated on ・4 min read

Many have already heard the news that Richard M. Stallman has rejoined the Free Software Foundation board. This news was not met with wide enthusiasm, given the infamously toxic and reprehensible behavior RMS is known for.

A few years ago, we would have all just shrugged and moved on. But the tone has actually been changing in tech, in part at least because of our community, so RMS's announcement this time was not shrugged off.

Instead, there is an open letter demanding that RMS be removed from the FSF on grounds of his historic conduct, and furthermore that the entire board of the FSF, who have historically enabled the toxicity, step down. The open letter has been signed by many members of the open source community, including leaders of major open source projects.

Richard M. Stallman, frequently known as RMS, has been a dangerous force in the free software community for a long time. He has shown himself to be misogynist, ableist, and transphobic, among other serious accusations of impropriety. These sorts of beliefs have no place in the free software, digital rights, and tech communities. With his recent reinstatement to the Board of Directors of the Free Software Foundation, we call for the entire Board of the FSF to step down and for RMS to be removed from all leadership positions.

We, the undersigned, believe in the necessity of digital autonomy and the powerful role user freedom plays in protecting our fundamental human rights. In order to realize the promise of everything software freedom makes possible, there must be radical change within the community. We believe in a present and a future where all technology empowers – not oppresses – people. We know that this is only possible in a world where technology is built to pay respect to our rights at its most foundational levels. While these ideas have been popularized in some form by Richard M. Stallman, he does not speak for us. We do not condone his actions and opinions. We do not acknowledge his leadership or the leadership of the Free Software Foundation as it stands today.

There has been enough tolerance of RMS’s repugnant ideas and behavior. We cannot continue to let one person ruin the meaning of our work. Our communities have no space for people like Richard M. Stallman, and we will not continue suffering his behavior, giving him a leadership role, or otherwise holding him and his hurtful and dangerous ideology as acceptable.

We are calling for the removal of the entire Board of the Free Software Foundation. These are people who have enabled and empowered RMS for years. They demonstrate this again by permitting him to rejoin the FSF Board. It is time for RMS to step back from the free software, tech ethics, digital rights, and tech communities, for he cannot provide the leadership we need. We are also calling for Richard M. Stallman to be removed from all leadership positions, including the GNU Project.

We urge those in a position to do so to stop supporting the Free Software Foundation. Refuse to contribute to projects related to the FSF and RMS. Do not speak at or attend FSF events, or events that welcome RMS and his brand of intolerance. We ask for contributors to free software projects to take a stand against bigotry and hate within their projects. While doing these things, tell these communities and the FSF why.

We have detailed several public incidents of RMS’s behavior. Some of us have our own stories about RMS and our interactions with him, things that are not captured in email threads or on video. We hope you will read what has been shared and consider the harm that he has done to our community and others.

To sign, please email digitalautonomy at

Let's take a stand for equity, inclusion, and human dignity in tech! Please sign the open letter, and please cease to contribute or donate to FSF and GNU projects until they take the appropriate action on this issue.

It's time we made it clear: hatred and bigotry is no longer welcome in tech, regardless of technical contribution or celebrity status. After all, if we're going to tolerate someone as extreme as RMS, how can we claim to care about conduct at all?

Note: In the interest of keeping the conversation safe for marginalized groups, especially those who have suffered harm directly or indirectly because of RMS and the culture he bred, I will be actively removing pro-RMS content from the comments section under all circumstances without prejudice. This is not censorship, it is my own freedom of speech. Use your own articles or platforms if you want to disagree (and bear in mind DEV's Code of Conduct and Terms of Use. Rebuttals aren't welcome in this comment section.

Discussion (6)

Editor guide
nicozerpa profile image
Nico Zerpa (he/him)

If some of you didn't know the details about the things RMS said and did, I really recommend reading the link Jason put in the article (the link with the text "We have detailed several incidents...").

People with this type of attitudes are dangerous, especially when they're in a position of power.

zenulabidin profile image
Ali Sherief

We urge those in a position to do so to stop supporting the Free Software Foundation. Refuse to contribute to projects related to the FSF and RMS.

This could be a problem to enforce IMO because several key Linux programs (pretty much all of coreutils, glibc, gcc and make) are copyrighted by the FSF.

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald Author • Edited

I've heard rumblings of forks.

In any case, there are alternatives!

I know that some are moving their contribution efforts to the LLVM/Clang stack instead of GCC. (As it is, from a source code perspective, LLVM code is infinitely cleaner and more maintainable than GNU's code.)

Instead of glibc, there's musl.

Instead of Autotools, we have CMake, Ninja, and SCons

And, again, all of GNU's code can be forked.

Remember, of course, the letter isn't calling for people to stop using FSF/GNU projects, just to stop contributing. If the FSF remains unyielding, we may just need to fork the GNU projects and/or change our defaults. With GNOME already backing the letter, that may be a real possibility.

brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

A cursory glance at the list of people who signed shows an overwhelming majority (~95% ?) of people with masculine names. After reading the "details of several public incidents" published in the letter I was expecting a lot more women would sign. Maybe it is a reflexion of the gender balance in tech, but 95% seems a bit skewed.

lifelongthinker profile image

Rest in Hell, Epstein!

I think RMS has shattered enough China and is not doing himself a favor by stepping back into the limelight.

The FSF board really shows its ugly face here.

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald Author

Wow. I just noticed today, the GNOME Project, Mozilla, Creative Commons, and Foundation have all signed on.