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August 2013 - Berlin, Germany - Induction into the Internet Hall of Fame

by Jeanne Rasata Contributions Published on Aug 09, 2013 10:34 AM
On August 3rd, 2013, RMS was at the InterContinental Hotel, in Berlin, Germany, where he was inducted in the Internet Hall of Fame, in recognition of his contributions as an innovator and for founding the Free Software Foundation.

During his very brief acceptance speech (fully transcribed below), RMS reminded us of the original purpose of the Internet and cautioned against falling prey to the allure of convenience at the cost of our freedom and privacy, and appealed for net neutrality.

(Photos under CC BY-SA 3.0 and courtesy of Erik Albers.)

Transcript of RMS's Acceptance Speech

"So, thirty years ago, if you wanted to get a new computer and use it, you had to surrender your freedom, by installing a user-subjugating proprietary operating system, so I decided to fix that by developing another operating system and making it free. And, it's called GNU, but most of the time you'll hear people erroneously calling it 'Linux.' Uh, [audience laughs] please, please, give us equal mention: 'Linux' is the name of one component, the kernel of this system; if you call it 'GNU plus Linux,' you'll give the principal developers equal mention.

"However, of course, we also, with our computers, nowadays, talk to the Internet, which is another way that our freedom can be taken away.

"The Internet was originally designed with the idea that your computer could talk with my computer, if we wanted to do something together---the end-to-end principle. But this has been trashed by a bunch of companies, like ISPs that don't allow people---subscribers---to receive connections, computers designed to be so weak that the only thing you can do with them is use them as front-end [sic] for centralized services. And of course the companies that set up these centralized services to try to surveil people as much as possible and hand over all the information they collect to the NSA---which turns the whole thing into something monstrous. So if we want the Internet to be something good for human freedom---instead of the final curtain call for human freedom---we need to fight hard.

"And, above all, we've got to beware of anyone proposing 'smart' this or that that's going to talk to the Internet---or, the 'Internet of things.' Their idea, I guess, is that every appliance in your house will be yet another surveillance opportunity for the NSA to---and also, if it's running nonfree software, another way for companies--to control you---and probably have bad security---so that they can mist- ---so that lots of others can mistreat---you.

"I won't let any of the things in my domicile be part of the 'Internet of things,' unless it's [sic] running free software and set up by people I know I can trust not to turn it [sic] into a tentacle of surveillance.

"And, one of the things we need to prevent this is proper laws, that is, not the laws businesses want. For instance, if we switch from using landline telephones to voice over IP, for that to be a step forward, rather than a step back, we've got to make sure that common-carrier laws that apply to landline telephones---except where they've succeeded and [pause] companies have succeeded [pause] in purchasing the abolition of these good regulations---we've got to make sure it's the same for any replacement system that we might use. Which translates, basically, into network neutrality. We've got to have the [sic] totally clear and firm network neutrality, just as firm as for telephone lines.

"So, if you agree with any of this stuff, you might want to join the Free Software Foundation, at fsf.org." [audience laughs, applauds]

Please see www.fsf.org/events for a full list of all of RMS's confirmed engagements, and contact rms-assist@gnu.org if you'd like him to come speak.

Please fill out our contact form so that we can inform you about future events in and around Berlin.

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