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ICE, Github, Tech & Politics

I started writing this thing when Github proactively banned users from Iran, Syria and other places. But I didn’t think I could add much to the discussion, not any more than what the affected people were already saying. But something itched in me, and that is the image used in their manifesto repo:

image displaying the github octocat in an "evil" characterisation with the word "politics" as a caption

I think this perspective come from a (political) view that technology is (or should be) somewhat “neutral” or “not ideological”. This will never be the case. I say it is necessarily a political view because it is an assesment on how the relation between a service (product of programmer’s labor power) will work in the world. It’s not by negating that something exists that you’ll solve any problem. It is because of politics that twitter doesn’t ban white supremacists. It is because of politics that we work 8 hours a day and not more (or less). It is because of the international division of labor that you are even reading this article in English. Or about why github even exists as the de facto platform for sharing code with the world. Politics should not be seen as a good or bad thing. Politics is a thing. And depoliticizing things will only benefit those in power.

With that said, today we had the news that Github will renew it’s contract with ICE.

# First, why ICE shouldn’t even exist

ICE is the “Immigration and Customs Enforcement” for the US government. It’s a police-like entity dedicated to the sole purpose of investigating and deporting immigrants. Immigration is not a crime. There are crimes related to imigration, yes. An undocumented (no human is “ilegal”) immigrant is not more likely to commit crimes than any other person. The movement of people in the planet they were born within is not a crime and shouldn’t ever be considered as such.

Github seems to agree with me, but if you’re not convinced, here are a few resources on the subject:

And here are some videos:

# Back to Github, open source, etc

So, when they made the ban, I left github. Migrated all my projects to Gitlab. Since their response to this was quiet and in my opinion did not make up for what they did, I decided not to come back for the hacktoberfest event. I’m currently working on an open source music project and could be benefiting from the PRs. But now I think more and more people should migrate their projects to other platforms. Since Github is now owned by Microsoft, there’s less reason to believe they’ll do the right thing. They still have a monopoly on desktop systems and shouldn’t be expected to behave on contrary to their practices on more than two decades now.

Chef tried to do delete their gem, but they had to republish it so their non-genocidal customers could use their product. And maybe this can be the start of a more broad discussion on FOSS as an ecosystem.

There was some discussion on about open source funding and I remember when Lerna had some discussion about this very subject more than a year ago. Maybe there needs to be more discussion on how the product of programmers’ labor will be used other than funding (not to say that funding is not important). The Free software was a beginning, but the move towards the unregulated (economically liberal?) market of now is in my oppinion a move backwards. It allows for this situation we are in now. The most used license (MIT) is like a Pontius Pilate’s wash my hands way of saying “you’re free to use this and if bad come to you or you do harm to others, it’s your fault.” Maybe we need more humane alternatives, I don’t know, just raising questions here.

If you work on Github I won’t ask you to quit your job. But I’ll suggest you to listen to this former Google worker that left their job when heard about the Dragonfly project, starting at 5:30 in Mozzila’s IRL podcast.