Refuting Freetardism

A certain ideology has recently (or not so recently) taken the tech communities by storm. Lots of minds have been insidiously captured by it, and directed towards the wrong path, so I wanted to try my hand in refuting it, since no one else seems to be doing it. But first things first - what actually is freetardism?

Free Software according to the freetards

From gnu.org's article "Philosophy of the GNU Project" - Free software means that the software's users have freedom. (The issue is not about price.) We developed the GNU operating system so that users can have freedom in their computing. Okay, it goes further but let's stop here for now. So GNU thinks that "free software" is important because it means the users have freedom. Sounds noble? Let's see then, how they define "free software".

We will be citing the article https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html (archive) heavily here, since that is where they actually expand on their definitions.

“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. We sometimes call it “libre software,” borrowing the French or Spanish word for “free” as in freedom, to show we do not mean the software is gratis. We campaign for these freedoms because everyone deserves them. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. When users don't control the program, we call it a “nonfree” or “proprietary” program. The nonfree program controls the users, and the developer controls the program; this makes the program an instrument of unjust power.

Okay, so free software is about freedom, not price, and freedom is really important. So far so good. But wait, how do you guys decide if the software is "free" ? Let's see...

The Four Freedoms

The four essential freedoms A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms: [1]

Okay, so a program has to satisfy some defined freedoms to be considered "free software". But do those freedoms actually have any relevancy to actual, practical freedom?

Freedom 0

The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).

The freedom to run the program [...] without being required to communicate about it with the developer or any other specific entity. - You mean that, for all those years I've been using Windows programs, I've been required to communicate with some "entities"? That's funny.

In this freedom, it is the user's purpose that matters, not the developer's purpose - This is actually impossible - the purpose is always defined by the programmers. And "free software" might still impose unwanted "purposes" onto you - like all the "free software" browsers on https://spyware.neocities.org/articles/ (archive). On the other hand, a nonfree software might make its purpose evident and not violate it - and will provide more actual freedom than so-called free software.. Also,

The freedom to run the program as you wish means that you are not forbidden or stopped from making it run - this is easy to violate in the so-called "free software". What prevents me from making a program that can only be run on Wednesdays? Nothing.

Freedom 1

The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Okay, here is where we start to run into serious problems. First of all, access to the source code is absolutely not a precondition for this. People have been disassembling all kinds of software forever - for example Pokemon games, which have spawned many hacks that improve (or claim to) on these games. No source code required! On the other hand, much of the so-called "free software" is untouched except by the people who control it in the first place. If a person wanted to modify Mozilla Firefox so that it does their computing as they wish, they would have to have enough programming skill first. Then they would have to have the patience to wade through thousands of lines of code, find whatever is bothering them, and spend time trying to fix it. And when they are done, they might notice that a new version of Firefox came out with a bunch of essential security fixes that they will now have to implement. See? It's insurmountable - Mozilla ends up controlling FF anyway. Source code, therefore, does not always provide real, personal freedom - unlike what the freetards claim. Disassembling some simpler programs might be more practical...

Freedom 2

The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others (freedom 2).

Windows programs are being redistributed all the time, and probably more people are helped that way than by freetardism.

Freedom 3

The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

So here is where we come to the crux of the issue, it seems. It is the distribution of modifications, that gives real freedom, according to the freetards. But does it actually? Again, you, first of all, need the programming skill to make these modifications - skill that 99% of users don't have. Then there is the issue of your version becoming obsolete by the time you finish your changes - see Freedom 1. And of course, disassembling is still a possibility - you say it's too hard? So is programming for the vast majority of people - again, no advantage for free software to be found.

The license lie

Of course, releasing the source is not enough for the freetards. You also need to attach a "license" to your program which will allegedly allow others to do everything the four freedoms permit. The problem is - nothing prevents anyone from breaking the license. Licenses are just words on the screen - most of us have violated countless video game EULAs for example.

Black and white thinking of freetards

A program is free software if it gives users adequately all of these freedoms. Otherwise, it is nonfree. While we can distinguish various nonfree distribution schemes in terms of how far they fall short of being free, we consider them all equally unethical.

According to this quote, only software abiding completely by the freetards' criteria is good, anything else is "nonfree" and evil. It doesn't matter if you release the source - if you attach a "wrong" license to the software, you are equally unethical to a proprietary program. Sounds like something a cult would do - only complete allegiance is accepted - and of course, they don't look at any other criteria, so a "free software" that spies on you (or even a virus) is better than a "clean" proprietary program.

Other freetard arguments

Freetardism goes deep, and to refute it all I would have to write a book. But I will try to tackle some other common ones:

You don't need to be a programmer, just pay someone else! - This does not bypass the issues mentioned in the section refuting Freedom 1. Besides, I can also pay for a disassembly.

If the users don't control the program, the program controls the users. With proprietary software, there is always some entity, the developer or “owner” of the program, that controls the program—and through it, exercises power over its users. A nonfree program is a yoke, an instrument of unjust power. - Applies to "free software" just as much, or even more - that depends on the program in question. It is easily possible to make a closed source program that gives enough control to the user that they never even think about modifying the source. On the other hand, the "free software" world is full of crap where you'd have to change half of the code to regain control...might as well just use a good proprietary program then.

Proprietary software is often malware - they even have an article with that title (archive), where they mention a bunch of issues with proprietary software. Of course, you can find many examples of so-called "free software" also suffering from those - but freetards gives those a pass, because it's "free". Mozilla Firefox alone fits most of the listed criteria.

Final refutation

The freetards' definition of free software simply does not correspond to actual freedom. It is an example of Orwellian newspeak - a software is "free" if it abides by our arbitrarily chosen freedoms, and anything else is dirty and "nonfree" - even though "free software" does not necessarily provide more actual freedom, as shown earlier in the article - and might actually provide less.

Why freetardism is dangerous

Too much focus on irrelevant shit, such as licenses, campaigns against "nonfree" (newspeak, remember!) software, rating software by whether they are "free" or not by their arbitrary definitions, or even fucking words - seriously, they want people to use only their approved words - open source, for example, is strictly forbidden! Diverting attention away from more important things, such as whether the software is actually quality, or if it spies on you (archive). But wait, we haven't actually defined freetardism yet!

Freetardism defined

Well, let's say it is the complete allegiance to all the things mentioned in the rest of the article. So, a freetard will believe that "four freedoms" provide actual freedom to the users and are the most important things ever. He will be trying to get rid of all the dirty nonfree software on his computer. He will care too much about licenses, and not enough about quality. He will shit on "nonfree" software even if it is obviously superior. He will dismiss countless examples of free software failures. He will cite pages upon pages of GNU propaganda to correct or convert people. He will suffer from the "we good, they bad" thinking. In summary, he will act as a religious zealot would - but at least they have the excuse of acting according to God's will (right or not).

Does that mean free software is bad?

It is important to differentiate between open source and freetardism - freetards are doing everything to conflate these two, but we can have the former and throw the harmful ideology away. Maybe then we can recognize (and try to fix) the movement's flaws. Of course releasing the source is great, but that does not necessarily mean the software becomes more secure, more quality, or that the users have more freedom. In fact open source introduces its own set of problems, and freetardism has blinded people from this fact, so it has to go.

Last updated: 03 / 07 / 2018

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