FSF brings back Richard Stallman despite backlash

“We determined to carry RMS back as a result of we missed his knowledge,” the FSF board mentioned Monday. “His historic, authorized and technical acumen on free software program is unequalled. He has a deep sensitivity to the ways in which applied sciences can contribute to each the enhancement and the diminution of primary human rights. His international community of connections is invaluable. He stays probably the most articulate thinker and an unquestionably devoted advocate of freedom in computing.”

Nonetheless, the board apologized for taking workers unexpectedly in reinstating Stallman, who is widely known each as a legendary coder who created early variations of many technical instruments nonetheless in use at the moment, particularly by programmers, and as an unrelenting advocate for software program that persons are allowed to freely modify and distribute. Stallman left the board in 2019 after widespread criticism of feedback he made concerning the Jeffrey Epstein case and about allegations that the late AI and robotics pioneer Marvin Minsky had assaulted one among Epstein’s victims. On the time, a lot of folks got here ahead with tales of abusive and unsightly conduct by Stallman, particularly towards girls, with some saying they even averted strolling by his workplace at MIT to keep away from him.

Stallman was just lately reinstated to the FSF board, leading to a petition signed by greater than 3,000 folks and representatives of high-profile organizations together with Mozilla, Tor, and Artistic Commons calling for all the board to resign. The board has said it’s going to amend its by-laws to make its choice course of extra clear and evaluation the membership of current board members “in levels” as soon as the method is finalized. It additionally agreed so as to add a member of its unionized workforce to the board, with that seat now crammed by senior system administrator Ian Kelling.


Stallman issued an apology on the similar time that the board assertion was issued. In it, he says that he has had lifelong issue dealing with social conditions and that he has offended folks, particularly girls.

“This was not a selection: I didn’t perceive the issue sufficient to know which decisions there have been,” he mentioned. “Typically I misplaced my mood as a result of I didn’t have the social expertise to keep away from it. Some folks might address this; others had been harm. I apologize to every of them. Please direct your criticism at me, not on the Free Software program Basis.”

Stallman additionally mentioned he was “tone-deaf” in defending Minsky from what he sees as unjust accusations whereas not acknowledging the broader context of injustice that the Epstein case dropped at gentle.

“I’d have accomplished it for anybody,” he mentioned. “Police brutality makes me indignant, however when the cops lie about their victims afterwards, that false accusation is the final word outrage for me. I condemn racism and sexism, together with their systemic varieties, so when folks say I don’t, that hurts too.”