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Re: [Repo-criteria-discuss] Resolving the C2 question

From: Mike Gerwitz
Subject: Re: [Repo-criteria-discuss] Resolving the C2 question
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2017 22:00:57 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/25.1 (gnu/linux)

(Your reply only went to the list; rms wasn't in To or Cc, so he likely
won't see your message.)

On Sat, Jul 15, 2017 at 07:55:41 +0000, Ivan Shmakov wrote:
>       The problem at hand is that, for instance, Russian Federation
>       asserts jurisdiction over all the communications that happen on
>       its territory; and I find it hard to argue that they should not.
>       It’s not unlike passing the customs office: you try to pass the
>       goods that are forbidden in a country over its borders, and
>       these goods are either turned around or destroyed by the
>       authorities.  Similarly, trying to transmit information that
>       violates the law through the public networks may result in your
>       access to said networks being blocked.

It's a bit different.

It's like a Russian citizen coming to the United States, copying data
onto a portable device from GitHub, and attempting to take it back to
Russia.  The traveler is the party under jurisdiction of those laws, not

Or it's like a Russian ordering the data online from the United States
and it passing through customs to reach him/her.

>       So, in the end, my question is probably like this: suppose that
>       one day Savannah ends up hosting, say, some advanced chemistry
>       software that makes it easy to get a recipe for synthesizing
>       meth.  Hence, Savannah becomes censored in Russia†.
>       What will be pro’s and cons. – to the community – of Savannah
>       remaining censored in its entirety by the Russian government,
>       and similarly for the case it’s decided to apply self-censorship
>       (to avoid governmental censorship) instead?

It's a matter of principle---conceding to another country's censorship.

But Savannah doesn't have the influence that GitHub does.  Savannah
would remain blocked, plain and simple, unless the administrators found
that whatever is being hosted violates Savannah's policies.

GitHub---should they say no---will disrupt an entire nation.  It forces
Russia's hand.  Either Russia will decide that its citizens' access to
the wealth of information on GitHub is worth it, or they will decide
that this tiny bit of information they disapprove of is justification
for blocking the entirety of GitHub and disrupting countless people and

GitHub is under no obligation to follow Russia's laws aside from
business and community pressure.  They had to make a choice: try to
force Russia's hand and risk the consequences, or avoid the risk.

It's a tough spot to be in.  And I explained that to rms when I had him
clarify in private.  It would be very hard to stand strong and watch as
a whole nation of people suffers.  But certain things are worth fighting
for.  Is it worth it for GitHub?  Maybe not.  Clearly not.  But is it
worth it for GNU?  Absolutely.

We're not trying to control GitHub's actions.  But using GitHub for GNU
projects is an endorsement, and GNU needs to decide what principles are
worthy of such an endorsement.  Thus the repo criteria.

We want to make sure GNU software is available to everyone, period.  So
we wouldn't want a GNU package's primary project hosting to be on a
website that does not guarantee access to all to the extent that is
reasonably possible.  Obviously, if GitHub had a presence in Russia,
they would have to follow Russian law within its territory.  And
obviously GNU has to follow all applicable United States laws,
even if they're oppressive.

> PS.  I’m not at all a fan of GitHub (with it running non-free software
>       and all that), but I believe that with them clearly documenting
>       all the governmental requests they honor they’re doing a good
>       job for the community at least in this respect.

It's certainly good that they document it, yes.  But transparently
giving into another country doesn't satisfy our criteria. ;)

I hope that answers your questions.

Mike Gerwitz
Free Software Hacker+Activist | GNU Maintainer & Volunteer
GPG: D6E9 B930 028A 6C38 F43B  2388 FEF6 3574 5E6F 6D05

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