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It's the Free SOFTWARE Foundation, forget user freedom

The good

I used to think that the Free Software Foundation was the best foundation on planet Earth. That is not true. I now realize that the FSF cares not about user freedom, and barely even cares about software freedom.

The Free Software Foundation does good things, such as the GNU Project and the Defective By Design campaign. They do great things for the free software movement, and only the free software movement.

The bad

The Free Software Foundation's "Respect Your Freedom" certification absolutely does NOT apply to free hardware. It only applies to hardware in which the software that can be modified is free.

This means that most of the non-free software can't even be replaced with free software if there was a free replacement, meaning the hardware is LESS free! For example, most if not all RYF laptops have an Atheros chipset wireless card using ath9k or prior. The Atheros wireless chipset, prior to ath10k, used read-only memory, or ROM, to store the firmware for the device. This means that the operating system doesn't need to have any knowledge of the firmware, and the user doesn't need to install non-free firmware onto the OS. This, however, is not freedom. Modern wireless cards, such as the ones produced by Intel and Realtek, load firmware from the OS in order to save on ROM space. This means that the OS needs to have non-free software installed in order to use the card. But the operating system could load a different, free firmware load instead, giving the user more freedom.

The RYF certification also does not require that the hardware schematics nor CAD files be released under a free license, so the hardware itself doesn't even respect your freedom.

Would you rather be trapped, or trapped with an option to escape? That is the question the RYF certification brings with it. I would choose the latter.

The ugly

Even deeper into the RYF certification, we come across exceptions. Exceptions, exceptions, exceptions. Not only are they not made clealy aware to the user, but they make a device even more non-free than it would have been otherwise. For example, Purism (more on them later) is trying to become RYF certified on their devices by hiding the proprietary blobs required for them to function, instead of working on removing them. Secondary processors running the non-free software is perfectly fine according to the FSF. Some freedom, hiding the restrictions under more restrictions.

Purism. Where do I start. Not only are they doing shady business with they own products, they're doing even shadier business with Start9's products. They worked together to create a proprietary hardware server running proprietary software, Start9's own source-available "free and open source" (yes they claimed this, they mean gratis and source-available, but just want to make people think they're ethical) operating system EmbassyOS. Start9 also resells the Raspberry Pi 4 for 654 USD, but that's besides the point. The point really is, the FSF endorses Purism and their OS, even though they do shady backhanded deals with unethical companies like Start9.

Just another side note, but a very important one: the FSF's website (and the GNU website; I haven't checked other campaigns, but probably them as well) is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0. This license permits no derivatives, stripping the user of basic freedom number three: the freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to others. Pretty hypocritical, isn't it?


All in all, the FSF has done wonders for the free software movement, but definitely not for any other movement involving freedom. I personally do not donate to them and will not, but I don't judge you if you do, even though they haven't done much for free software recently. I do hope that they see the error of their ways at some point, don't continue the RYF certification in it's current form, and stop promoting free software made by unethical people.