icyphox's avatar

Free software should not censor

If you write free software, don't deny freedom zero

Any software is free, if it grants the users the four essential freedoms:

Denying any one of these freedoms makes your software nonfree. As it happens, some free software project maintainers think it’s OK to impose their political / ideological stances on who can use their software, and for what purpose it can be used. They are violating the zeroth freedom to advance their political agendas. Here are a couple of examples.

case one: Tusky

Tusky is a free software (GPL 3.0) Android client for the fediverse — thematically, Mastodon. They Rick Roll users who try to connect to instances they disagree with. You don’t get to decide for your users! And the irony here is its a client for a supposedly censorship-resistant network. This is in violation of freedom zero.

Funnily enough, Tusky recently got removed from the Play Store for serving “objectionable content”.

They don’t seem to understand that one can view any content with Tusky and that it is not possible for the app developers to check any of it. — https://chaos.social/@ConnyDuck/105904015276457450

A blatant lie! Doesn’t feel good when someone else decides things for you, now, does it?

case two: Lemmy

Also a fediverse application — a federated Reddit clone (AGPL 3.0). They have a hardcoded slur filter that they refuse to remove, or at the very least, make configurable. This is just plain bad engineering for the sake of politics.

Both of these software are released under free software licenses, and are clearly nonfree. Stop doing this — it benefits nobody. You probably feel like you’re “making a change”, but guess what: you’re not. It is mere virtue signalling. Don’t enforce your political agendas on your users.

Censorship is bad for everyone, and it usually never ends well. There is no “correct” way to censor — so don’t even try! If you don’t want your software to be “misused”, release it under a license that is capable of enforcing that.1


  1. Protip: you can’t. Ethical source licenses exist, but they’re practically dead in the water.

Questions or comments? Send an email.