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GNU releases ethical evaluations of code-hosting services

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Apr 25, 2016 03:26 PM
Contributors: community member Andrew Ferguson, with FSF campaigns manager Zak Rogoff.
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Monday, April 25th, 2016 -- Today the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the GNU Project announced evaluations of several major repository-hosting services according to the standards of the GNU Ethical Criteria for Code Repositories. Released in 2015, these criteria grade code-hosting services for their commitment to user privacy and freedom. At the time of publication, Savannah and GitLab have met or surpassed the baseline standards of the criteria.

The completed evaluations can be viewed on the evaluation page, while the criteria page offers more information on the evaluation process, as well as the criteria themselves.

Repositories are used not only by software developers but also by software users, and they have a large impact on the free software community. The evaluations promote and honor good ethical practices on the part of repositories, and make it easy for users to find services that respect them.

Version 1.0 of the criteria ranks sites on a score from F (unacceptable) to A+ (extra credit). No site has yet received extra credit, but Savannah achieved an A grade. An F grade shows the service has not met even the minimum ethical standards expected for the hosting of a GNU package. GNU's Repo Criteria Discussion list is happy to offer assistance to repository-hosting organizations seeking to improve their service's score.

One service which has passed the criteria is GitLab. "We want to allow everyone to contribute to software. We recognize that many people have a need for free software to do this," said GitLab's CEO Sytse Sijbrandij, adding that "as a former developer myself, I think it is natural that you can contribute to the software you use to collaborate." Many repository sites require the user to run proprietary JavaScript to access their full functionality, but GitLab has addressed this by relicensing its JavaScript as free software.

Savannah, which has also passed these criteria, "host[s] projects for the sake of the ideals of freedom and community that the free software movement stands for," according to its Web site, which also makes clear that "[t]he space given to you on this server is given for the expressed purpose of advancing free software." Savannah is hosted by the FSF but run almost entirely by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Andrew Ferguson, a community member who played a leadership role in the evaluation project, said "More volunteers with coding ability are needed to aid the development of existing repository services to help them meet these criteria. All community members are encouraged to write the administrators of code-hosting services, to build awareness and a motivation to improve their ethical evaluations. GitHub has responded to some requests from the free software community and has recently updated its license chooser to include the GPLv3 license. However more community advocacy is required, as GitHub still fails to meet the criteria."

General discussion regarding the criteria or evaluations can be directed to the libreplanet-discuss mailing list. If you'd like to lend your help evaluating repositories, please join the repo-criteria-discuss list.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at

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Free Software Foundation
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