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A tech antitrust hearing misses the point

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GNU

On July 29th, the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon were called before the US Senate Judiciary Committee to give testimony to lawmakers considering substantial revisions to antitrust laws. Yet despite a five-hour hearing, conducted using some of the very same software which is at the root of these issues, little headway was made.

It's easy to focus, like these hearings, on the specific objectionable purposes for which the software these companies are involved with has been used. Specific actions have caused specific harms, and we understand the importance of talking about that and potentially taking or requiring remedial actions. However, it is imperative that we not stop there. We must go deeper, and expose the fact that it is the very way our predominant proprietary software culture and legal regimes operate -- giving software companies immense power over users -- which will inevitably lead to recurring specific problems until addressed.

Attempting to address the problem of monolithic corporations like the ones in question, and their control over the digital sphere, will fail without addressing the issue at the core of their exploitation of users: proprietary software, or software that does not respect its users' freedom. The terms of use and distribution for the software are by no means the only issue, but they are central to many of the issues causing public concern. We've been waiting for follow-up coverage to acknowledge the conspicuous absence of discussion about our rights as users to control the software we use, but it has not happened. This is evidence that the Free Software Foundation, the free software movement, and anyone else concerned with ending the dystopian control tech companies have achieved over our lives, have our work cut out for us.

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Thank you for helping us welcome over 200 new members

  • Thank you for helping us welcome over 200 new members

    In the year 2020, every shred of good news is something to be grateful for, and the outpouring of support we've experienced during our spring fundraiser is very good news indeed. Over the course of the last month, not only did we exceed our goal of 200 new associate members, but we've gained more memberships this July than in any other July in the history of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) associate membership program. We are thrilled that in a time of many pressing concerns about freedom and safety, our supporters have grasped the central importance of the FSF's role in defending our right to control the software in our lives. We cannot possibly thank you enough for helping to ensure that we can continue leading this battle.

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