Earlier in the year I became a member of the Free Software Foundation. Today they reached to me asking me to spread the voice. I think their email was very compelling.
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This is their email.
As I write this, novel coronavirus numbers are hitting new peaks in many countries around the world. Because of proprietary software and Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS), our rights are reaching new lows. Being forced to live, work, and learn at a distance from each other has driven many to use proprietary systems for videoconferencing, test taking, and more.
It's not just the pandemic, though. Companies continue doing things with software just because they can, without regard to whether they should. They're steamrolling us into software-driven cars (scheduled in the US to be on the streets of San Francisco without human backup drivers by the end of the year) which will enable software owners to control our physical movements, and software-powered "doorbells" that enable a terrifying panopticon for bulk surveillance, complementing the always-listening black box personal assistant devices present in far too many homes and pockets.
Our freedoms have had a rough year in 2020. So has the Free Software Foundation (FSF). While most of our financial support does come from online and mail-in donations, the merchandise sales and in-person contributions we would normally receive at free software events are of substantial importance. To have ongoing zeroes in those categories is a big loss. Couple that with lost opportunities to make in-person connections with event audiences about our work, and the impact of general economic uncertainty on all donations, and we have the most challenging financial picture of my seventeen years here. But still, we haven't pulled up stakes or hunkered down. Our fourteen staff members have all stepped up to the challenge to take on more.
In this tornado of technology being developed and deployed at a speed far outpacing actual thinking about its impact, the deliberate, thoughtful, and principled carefulness the FSF has become known for over its thirty-five years is exactly what we need. Free software applies the full intelligence of our global society to any issue. Only with free software can everyone be empowered to raise red flags or help solve problems in ways that aren't structurally biased toward entrenching the proprietary control currently threatening free societies.
We have made significant progress toward a goal I know you support -- communicating the importance of free software to a much broader and general audience. In the last year, we shared three animated short videos written and produced by film professionals -- including Rewind, which speaks directly to the necessity of free software in lifesaving scientific research. We're doing this advocacy on top of our regular work of enforcing the GNU General Public License, educating on licensing best practices, and providing reliable free software development infrastructure used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide -- all of which you can read about in the upcoming fall edition of the Free Software Foundation Bulletin.
Thank you for being a member we can depend on. Can you ask at least one other person to join you in supporting this work? If each member inspires just one other (perhaps by showing off the FSF videoconferencing server!), we can double our strength. If you can do a little more yourself, any extra donation you make will enable us to have an even wider reach.
At thirty-five, the FSF is changing in many ways, but solely for the purpose of effectively defending our principles, which are not changing. After being elected earlier this year, our president Geoffrey Knauth said, "I pledge to support honest dialogue and emerging leaders in the quest to secure the future for free software for generations to come, and not to alter the tenets of the free software vision." With the ongoing visionary advice of founder Richard M. Stallman, and with your support, the FSF is doing what we need to, to grow in strength for another thirty-five years and beyond. Thank you for standing with us, for doing so much for free software, and for being essential to this work.
Yours in freedom,
P.S. Please speak up for freedom by using the hashtag #UserFreedom on your favorite microblogging service, and pledge your support for the free software movement today. See fsf.org/share to learn how to follow the FSF on various social networks.
Illustration Copyright © 2020, Free Software Foundation, Inc., by Raghavendra Kamath, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.