Libreboot and the Leah Rowe follies

Hopefully, this story has developed enough that it’s safe to write about now.

Not too long ago I was on IRC (Freenode #fsf) and someone pasted this URL linking to the Libreboot mailing list (all typos are as in the original, very slight snippage made for brevity):

Hi,

The Free Software Foundation recently fired a transgendered employee of the FSF, just for being trans, because some transphobic cissexist people wrote negativly about her. The FSF fired her because they thougdt she, rather than the assholes bullying her, was causing the FSF potential damage. As a result, she was fired from the FSF.

As a trans person myself, I find this disgusting.

I’m declaring here and now to the whole world that Libreboot is no longer part of the GNU project. I do not believe that the FSF or the GNU project deserve to exist.

[…]

Long live the LGBT community, and long live the free software movement. Meanwhile, FSF and GNU can both go fuck themselves.

-- 
Leah Rowe

Libreboot developer

Later that day, John Sullivan of the Free Software Foundation responded with this statement (quoted below in part):

This morning, an open email circulated in which the author said that the Free Software Foundation ended a relationship with one of our employees for discriminatory reasons.

Although it is our usual policy not to comment publicly on internal personnel matters for privacy reasons, we felt it necessary to state unequivocally that the allegations made in that email are untrue.

It is part of our job to celebrate and improve the diversity of the free software world. We have strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to help provide a safe and supportive working environment. […]

(Not quoted or linked above was a reply from Dr. Richard M. Stallman himself also denying Ms. Rowe’s accusations. You know stuff just got real when RMS has to take time out of whatever he usually does to respond.)

In the days since, no further details have come forth. Of the two, I am personally much more inclined to believe the FSF. Especially in light of the fact that Ms. Rowe claims to speak for the “libreboot community”, when in fact it is more likely she’s really only speaking for herself, per this post by Darnien Zammit on zammit.org:

Given the recent kerfuffle, and in spite of my vested interest in wanting to continue being paid to continue this important work [on the Libreboot project], I find it necessary to spell out a couple of facts I find important about the libreboot project and the libreboot community:

1) I have recently noticed that Leah Rowe is the only person who has git commit access to the website, libreboot.org, and also the only person who has git commit access to the codebase, which has only become a problem recently.

2) The codebase is a deblobbed coreboot repository, with patches from libreboot contributors (but committed by Leah), and a bunch of install scripts for ease of use.

3) We (the contributors) are not consulted about any of the views expressed on the libreboot.org website when they are hastily published by Leah.

So, whenever you read “We believe….” or “We say that…” on the lists and websites, Leah has ultimate control of the libreboot project currently. It is clear that this person has been misusing control of the project to spew out irrelevant personal opinions on behalf of the “libreboot community”, a singleton group of people consisting of … yes you guessed it, Leah Rowe.

I find it quite distasteful that someone like Ms. Rowe would take it upon herself to speak on behalf of the community which uses Libreboot. I doubt that the vast majority of the users approve of her profanity-filled exit from the GNU project. Honestly, not only does this look bad on Libreboot’s users, incidents like this add up to look bad on free software users in general.

It’s not really the use of profanity I mind as much as deciding to dissociate with a larger umbrella project like GNU over something like this. Especially given that it’s impossible to verify due to the fact names weren’t named, and the overwhelming¬†majority of free software users are going to give the FSF the benefit of the doubt. Even if there is a rogue manager at the FSF, I’d rather, we as a community, give the FSF¬†a chance to rectify the situation than have it splattered all over the net the way Ms. Rowe did.

I hope that someone forks Libreboot so the users who don’t want to be associated with Ms. Rowe in any form may choose otherwise. This is absurd and nobody who uses a free software project like Libreboot should have to put up with it.