Contributing from afar: My internship from Italy with the campaigns team
You can read this blog in the original Italian at https://www.fsf.org/it/contribuire-da-lontano-il-mio-tirocinio-dallitalia-con-il-team-delle-campagne.
Hi, everyone! My name is Leonardo Luca Vignini. I was born and still live in Italy, in a city called Imola, near Bologna. Currently, I'm an intern at the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and, in particular, I'm working in the campaigns team. I'm learning how to manage contacts with CiviCRM, and I write to journalists and organizations to inform them about our campaigns, and I'm learning how the FSF works to spread the word and sensitize people about free software. Through these activities, I'm also deepening my understanding of some aspects about free software that I didn't know. For example, I checked some parts of the Defective by Design Web site, and it was an excellent opportunity to inform me further about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and the campaign against it.
I learned about free software during the first year of university, thanks to a friend of mine who had been using GNU/Linux for some time. I have a degree in philosophy, and I'm currently studying political science. My main interests are studying developing countries, politics, technology, and philosophy; in my spare time, I dedicate myself to cinema and music. I have experience in the field of information and nonprofits, having worked at some newspapers and at some nonprofit organizations of which I am still a member.
I certainly cannot say that in Italy there is a lot of sensitivity regarding software ethics, and I certainly cannot say it was discussed in places where I grew up or at the schools and institutions that I attended. Since I started following the free software movement, I have never known about events or projects related to it happening near me. And of course the schools and institutions that I attended have never talked about or promoted free software. The only and few initiatives of this type that I learned of took place in the biggest Italian cities, like Milan or Turin.
Software freedom attracted me from a theoretical point of view rather than a technical one. In fact, everyone can be involved and talk about free software, even those like me who have only basic technical skills. What convinced me was therefore the message of freedom and collaboration at the base of the movement. I think it is the best tool to face great challenges, such as problems related to privacy, the "Internet of Things," and AI.
I believe that the strength of free software lies precisely in the fact that anyone can collaborate, even those without technical skills. In this sense, collaborating means sharing and helping others to know more about the world, raising awareness, and helping them. As for me, after getting to know free software I tried to fully understand what it was about by reading books and articles, and watching videos. After becoming an associate member of the FSF, I immediately tried to become an activist in my small way, and I started doing it in the simplest and most immediate way: talking about it with people. It was incredible to see how many people share the things the FSF says, and how that helps people to decide to change their technological habits, for example, by installing a GNU/Linux distribution or choosing to use applications with free licenses on their smartphones. This made me understand that the issues addressed by the free software movement are shared by many people everywhere. Therefore, it is essential to inform and sensitize people globally through events, conferences, campaigns, and interventions in schools, and locally through all the means available in daily life, especially through word of mouth.
Since various people in my city often ask me about free software, I decided with a friend of mine to create a Web site (libreadvice.org), which, thanks to the support of the FSF, now fully works with LibreJS. Its purpose is to provide information and guides on the use of free software for people who do not have any kind of technical skills. In fact, to bring more people closer, I believe we must deliver the message that free software is not necessarily something distant and difficult to use, but that it often concerns simple and functional tools.
To close, I am happy to have the opportunity to directly contribute to the Free Software Foundation through this remote internship. During this experience, I would like to contribute in the campaigns against bulk surveillance. In fact, surveillance is a problem always present and especially now -- during the COVID-19 pandemic -- and if no limits are placed on surveillance measures put in place from countries, there could be very serious consequences for our freedom. I will continue to make my skills available to the campaigns team, and I hope to be able to further contribute to the spread of free software in Italy, which is, in my opinion, a country that is not free enough.