I’ve been hearing a lot about the Occupy ______ movements. They walk into a park near their city hall, they stand around for weeks, and make cries on Twitter, Facebook, and the like for people to come and help them. They hope to achieve a wide variety of things, but their broad focus appears to be the shift in wealth distribution from the rich down to the poor. They are, in large part, interested in redistribution of wealth to narrow the rich-poor gap in America.
There is a very big problem with this protest, and it is pretty evident to me after only reading the above paragraph: These people are still *relying* on corporate America. There is, very simply, *no way* that they can keep it in check at the same time. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and the others are just as much–if not more–offensive as the big corporations on Wall Street. Sure, they don’t take our financial assets necessarily (or rather, visibly), but these companies do hurt us, and it’s time for the Occupy movement to start recognizing that.
Twitter, Facebook, et al. are hurting their customers by restricting them in various ways. They do not allow the use of their software for any purpose. They do not allow people to copy their software. They especially don’t allow study or modification of it. These are basic digital freedoms that every computer user–whether they expect to actually exercise them or not–should fight to the death to preserve.
Occupy Free Software
The only way the Occupy movement can successfully move forward is to embrace the ideals of Free Software. To do this, I would suggest the following concrete steps:
- Replace all nonfree forms of communication used by the movement with their free alternatives. For example, anyone using Facebook currently should shift to use Diaspora or another similar free solution (GNU Social, etc.), and those using Twitter should use identi.ca instead (or some instance of StatusNet).
- Announce publicly that the movement has, as one of its main priorities, the disapproval and subversion of corporations’ control over their customers, as opposed to their helpfulness to the same.
- Have Free Software advocates come out to support the cause–which will not happen until the above two are at least seriously considered.
A Note for Skeptics
I’m sure some of you are (or have been) thinking something along the lines of “Free Software is overrated” or “but I enjoy using nonfree software” or “but it is an industry standard.”
If you allowed such trivial arguments to come between you and your freedoms, you would probably wind up living in a dictatorship very quickly. As an example, do you often use your fourth amendment liberty from cruel and unusual punishment? No, but if it were indefinitely suspended, you would be angry. In the same fashion, people who do not constantly use the digital freedoms enumerated by the Free Software Foundation should not say that they are useless or trivial–they are vitally important to many of us, and throwing them away for trivial or facially untrue reasons (“I can’t open .docx in GNU/Linux”, for example, is false) is not only ridiculous, it’s maddening.
Thanks for reading!