In the twenty years since Christine Peterson first coined the term “open source”, our community has grown astronomically, all the while learning from its successes and failures. A lot has changed for open source developers in the past two decades. But the political and technological landscape has also changed.
Open source software today is increasingly playing a critical role in mass surveillance, anti-immigrant violence, protester suppression, racist policing, and the development of weapons used to kill marginalized people all over the world, among other humans rights abuses.
In recognition of this reality, there is a growing demand from open source developers to take control of how our software is being used. We don’t want our code used to aid those who commit human rights violations or other unethical behavior. We don’t want our software used to support fascist states. We don’t want our labor and our code used to enable global corporations to unfairly generate huge profits off the workers of the world. Yet we lack the tools to enforce fair, ethical, and community-minded terms for those who benefit from our work.
And the organizations that claim ownership of the definitions of free and open source software have ignored our community’s call for ethical solutions to these problems. We’ve seen the Free Software Foundation continue to support its incredibly problematic founder. We’ve seen the Open Source Initiative continuing to prioritize software freedom over ethical concerns.
The time has come to reclaim authority over what it means to develop software in the open, without compromising ourselves or the universal values of human rights.
We are at the beginning of the era of Ethical Source Software.