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On Free Software, Red Hat, and Iran

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Red Hat

I was visiting the Fedora Council ticket tracker when I noticed this ticket up for discussion. The ticket’s purpose is minor and appears inconsequential. It involves adding some legal text to the Fedora Accounts system. The change is related to Export Administration Regulations (the “EAR”) as maintained by the United States Department of Commerce. And the change is not actually a change, but a clarification of a policy that has always been in effect.

I am opposed to the impact of Export Administration Regulations by the United States as it pertains to free and open source software. I am a strong believer that the impact of these regulations are most harmful to all free & open source software communities at an individual, human level. When I saw this discussion at the Fedora Council level, it offered me an opportunity to reflect on my own feelings about these regulations, and also to share an opinion on how I believe Fedora Linux could truly live up to its certification as a Digital Public Good to ensure a more equitable world.

[...]

Firstly, it creates confusion, doubt, and feelings of ill intent. These laws and regulations are meant to impact governments and nation-states. In a Free & Open Source community such as ours, these regulations impact individual people. Not governments or nation-states. As an example, a Fedora community member, Ahmad Haghighi, was recently permanently removed from the Fedora Community. In a few quick clicks, Ahmad’s legacy in the project was erased. As a precedent, even if someone’s contributions were not “supposed” to be accepted in the first place, it does not sit well with me that any one person’s legacy of contributions can so easily be removed from project records.

Secondly, it challenges the vision and foundations of the Fedora Project. Particularly our vision statement and the Friends Foundation. When I contribute to the Fedora Project, I do not see people as a citizen of this-country or that-country. I see them as my peers and fellow Fedorans, helping meet that shared vision of creating “a world where everyone benefits from free and open source software built by inclusive, welcoming, and open-minded communities.” As an American citizen, I know my country makes such discriminations about large groups of people based only on their nationality, but as a contributor to Free & Open Source communities, I see people by their individual character and intention to be a part of our shared vision. But how can we truly aspire to this vision if we are consciously making deliberate exclusions, even if they make little to no sense in our own context? This geographic restriction policy sits in contrast to the vision and purpose we spell out “on paper”.

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Context here: Imperialistic Blacklist Machines: Racist IBM and Red Hat — Just Like Donald Trump — Have Turned Fedora Into an Utterly Racist Project That Blacklists, Shuns and Permanently Bans People Based on Their Nationality Alone

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