Richard Stallman on ISP filtering and censorship

[ Monday, 16 February 2009, tarabaz ]

Richard Stallman – author of GNU, person without who we wouldn’t have GNU/Linux operating systems, GPL (General Public License), one of most active fighters for freedom in the world, living legend, genius, hacker.

There are many words used to describe this great person, but none of these words can fully describe him.

I think, that there is no such word, but thinking about Richard Stallman as a “real FREE man” is a good start.

author: Thomas “Tarabaz” Nowak
date: 15.02.2009
contact: tarabaz (at)

We can find injustice all over the world, places where idea of freedom is killed.

Not only idea of Free Software, but freedom itself.

Tibet, China, Finland, Russia – I can tell about it few hours. But there is some new kind of injustice, new kind of fright for democratic countries. This is one of most terrible dreams of Philip K Dick – author of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.

Terror from sci-fi books and films is starting on our own eyes – it’s name is corporatocracy. We can find it even in Poland.

Our work, our lives, our “to be” in these days is Internet – freedom to share knowledge, information in the global scale.

If someone just like ISP companies in Poland and Australia tries to interfere sharing by blocking network ports, censor Internet websites – it is real bad news for democracy, red light for our freedom, signal that companies have power to decide, what is good and what is bad.

This injustice is so serious, that I asked Richard Stallman about his point of view on this situation. I think there is no other person in the world, who is so experienced in fighting for freedom in technical world…

Tarabaz: Hello Richard. What do you personally think about idea of censoring internet?

RMS: I am against all censorship, because censorship is the tool of
tyrants. However, blocking certain network protocols is not exactly
censorship — it is a different kind of injustice.
Whereas censorship attacks the freedom of expression, the blocking of
these protocols attacks the freedom to share and the freedom to

Tarabaz: You know – many years ago in my country there was bunch of
really powerful persons on high seats in government, who wish to
control what could be done, and what can everyone think. Do you
think, that steps performed by our ISP companies is something in
sort of? Control on citizens by corporations – not by political

RMS: The tendency these days is for governments to bow down to the
megacorporations, and let the dictate the laws. People often take for
granted that business has more political power than citizens — but if
that is true, what does it mean? It means we have corporatocracy
instead of democracy. A flagrant example of corporatocracy is
happening right now in Finland — for details, see

Thus, the most important political imperative in the nominally
democratic countries today is to take away the political power of
business. We must change laws, treaties, and constitutions so that
the corporations cannot rule us.

Tarabaz: Do you think, that this steps are harmful for human rights?

RMS: The freedom to share, and the freedom to communicate, are human rights
that everyone deserves. Businesses must not be allowed to take them
away from people.

Tarabaz: What in the future it can mean for free software, and knowledge exchange?

RMS: The publishers of certain works want to stop people from sharing them.
The publishers of other works, including free (wolny) software such as
the GNU/Linux operating system, want to encourage people to share
If I understand you correctly, these ISPs have decided to obey the
copyright holders that want to prevent sharing, while thwarting the
wishes of copyright holders that want to encourage sharing.

Tarabaz: Is there any advices for customers of those dangerous companies, that
you want to share with readers of

RMS: What I suggest for the customers of these companies is to stop doing
business with them. Choose an ISP that respects network neutrality
and does not try to control what protocols its customers use.

Tarabaz: How can we stop censoring the internet, and help personally in this fight?

RMS: I have four suggestions:

Keep your wireless networks open, so that you will not become an
enforcer for an unjust Internet regime.

* Tell politicians you demand they legalize sharing of all published works,
and that you will accept no excuse for failing to do this.

* Reject all products with Digital Restrictions Management that you
don’t have the means to crack, and never make an exception.

* Join the campaign.

Tarabaz: How can we show politics, that this kind of censoring is something really bad and in long term can lead us for corporatocracy?

RMS: I don’t live in Poland, so I don’t know what works there.
One way or another, you need to tell the public and the politicians
that sharing is good, and it is wrong to stop people from sharing.
Don’t just criticize the side effects of these actions.
You must say that their goal is unjust.

Tarabaz: Is there something you want to share with polish GNU/Linux users, and those, who don’t discovered yet the benefits of freedom?

RMS: Millions of people use the GNU/Linux system thinking that all of it is
Linux.  They may not know it is free software if they have only heard
it described as open source (a completely different idea, concerned
with software development methods rather than users’ freedom).  These
people more or less enjoy the benefits of the freedom that we have
worked hard to give them, but they don’t know about the issue, and that makes
their freedom vulnerable. If we want to make freedom secure, we need to
teach other people to appreciate it and to defend it with us.

See and for
more explanation about these points.

License information:

This article is licensed on Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0

Full license can be found on

About the Author

Tomasz Nowak

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