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Stop Trump’s attack on Open Source Tools!

2020-06-19 15:27:46, erdgeist

As part of the Trump administration’s restructuring of US government agencies, the leadership of the Open Technology Fund has been replaced. This threatens to cut off funding for important open source projects. The open source community is opposing this strike with an open letter.

Just this Wednesday, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) emphasized the importance of technologies to circumvent surveillance and censorship in the Bundestag’s Committee on Human Rights.

Journalists and other targets of governmental and non-governmental attacks can make use of various open source tools to defend themselves. Transparency and verifiability are non-negotiable prerequisites for the security and trustworthiness of such systems.

It goes without saying that such tools must not be subordinated to economic considerations of commercially oriented companies. The most trustworthy way to finance their development is therefore the promotion of not-for-profit projects.

The Messenger Signal and the Anonymization Framework Tor are only two lighthouse projects of an active community, which constantly suffers from financial worries. The US government's Open Technology Fund (OTF) has become one of the most important pillars of this independent community.

Now, the Trump administration wants to put a quick and merciless end to this:

  • In the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which administers the OTF, a new Trump-loyal and Bannon-related leadership has been installed.
  • On June 17th, the OTF leadership was dismissed and the previously independent and internationally staffed board was replaced by Trump-loyalists.
  • A coordinated lobbying campaign aims to redirect budgets to proprietary closed-source systems.
  • Libby Liu, CEO of OTF, was forced to resign under protest.

Together with many other international organizations, the Chaos Computer Club is protesting this coordinated attack: Save Internet Freedom: Support the Open Technology Fund. We also call on other individuals and organizations to do the same – there is only a short window of opportunity to avert this immense damage to the open source community.

At the same time, this process highlights the devastatingly one-sided dependence of these open source technologies. Comparable independent funding structures in Europe are painfully lacking. Even if the impending blow can be averted, Germany and Europe urgently need to establish solid structures for the independent financing of open source tools for freedom of information and communication.