Red Hat has announced that it has withdrawn its support for the Free Software Foundation (FSF), following a decision by the non-profit to reinstate its founder, Richard Stallman, to its board of directors.
In case you somehow missed the news, free software pioneer Richard Stallman announced this week that he was returning to the Free Software Foundation board of directors after having resigned in 2019 over some controversial remarks regarding age of consent, rape, and Jeffrey Epstein.
Stallman’s reinstatement came with a staggering lack of transparency from FSF’s board of directors. It has triggered a cascade of condemnation from individuals and organizations across the tech industry.
Red Hat CTO Chris Wright tweeted,
I am really outraged by FSF’s decision to reinstate RMS. At a moment in time where diversity and inclusion awareness is growing, this is a step backwards.
In addition to, here’s Red Hat view on the matter,
Considering the circumstances of Richard Stallman’s original resignation in 2019, Red Hat was appalled to learn that he had rejoined the FSF board of directors. As a result, we are immediately suspending all Red Hat funding of the FSF and any FSF-hosted events. In addition, many Red Hat contributors have told us they no longer plan to participate in FSF-led or backed events, and we stand behind them.
The announcement has been met with a bit of a clamor. Almost two thousand Free Software advocates have signed on to a letter calling for the removal of Richard Stallman, as well as the entire FSF Board of Directors. Notable signatories include Neil McGovern (GNOME Foundation executive director and former Debian Project Leader), Mozilla, Tor Project, X.org Foundation, Open Source Diversity, and Open Life Science. Signatures also include members from the GNU community, Open Source Initiative, and a former member of the FSF board.
Not everyone wants Richard Stallman’s withdrawal
On the other hand, Stallman still has many staunch supporters. More than 2,000 people have signed an another open letter in support of him and his leadership. They contend that removing RMS “will hurt FSF’s image and will deal a significant blow to the momentum of the free software movement.”
Stallman is still listed among the FSF’s board of directors, but the board appears to be reorganizing. A preliminary statement on upcoming changes to the board’s governance said they are moving to adopt a transparent, formal process for identifying candidates and appointing new board members.
FSF president Geoffrey Knauth announced,
I commit myself to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership assuring continuity of the FSF’s mission and compliance with fiduciary requirements.
The board of directors will continue this work at its next meeting, scheduled for Sunday, March 28.