GNU Project maintainers are working to oust Richard Stallman from his position as head of the organization. In a joint statement published yesterday morning, a collection of 22 GNU maintainers and developers thanked Stallman for his work and declared that he can no longer represent the project:

We, the undersigned GNU maintainers and developers, owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Stallman for his decades of important work in the free software movement. Stallman tirelessly emphasized the importance of computer user freedom and laid the foundation for his vision to become a reality by starting the development of the GNU operating system. For that we are truly grateful.

Yet, we must also acknowledge that Stallman’s behavior over the years has undermined a core value of the GNU project: the empowerment of all computer users. GNU is not fulfilling its mission when the behavior of its leader alienates a large part of those we want to reach out to.

We believe that Richard Stallman cannot represent all of GNU.

Stallman’s personal website continues to prominently display his intentions to remain in the leadership role. He added the header to his site, following the publication of remarks he made regarding a 17-year old victim of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, which precipitated his resignation from both MIT and the Free Software Foundation:

The Stallman saga has continued to grow stranger in the aftermath of his resignations, as many were concerned that he would be homeless after his website featured a notice that he was “Seeking Housing,” accompanied by a link leading to his specific requirements for a temporary residence. His personal site was also reportedly vandalized nine days ago with a message that he was stepping down from the GNU.

The defacement with the false GNU resignation message was reverted shortly thereafter on September 30, and replaced with the header saying he continues to be “Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project” with no intention of stopping soon. Stallman has not yet publicly acknowledged the statement from the GNU maintainers. He has also not yet responded to our request for comment.

Yesterday the Free Software Foundation (FSF) published a statement indicating it was re-evaluating its working relationship with the GNU project, which has provided some of its technical infrastructure, fiscal sponsorship, and copyright assignment:

GNU decision-making has largely been in the hands of GNU leadership. Since RMS resigned as president of the FSF, but not as head of GNU (“Chief GNUisance”), the FSF is now working with GNU leadership on a shared understanding of the relationship for the future. As part of that, we invite comments from free software community members.

Stallman responded the next day, indicating he wanted to work with FSF on restructuring the relationship between the two organizations:

I recently resigned as president of the FSF, but the FSF continues to provide several forms of crucial support for the GNU Project. As head of the GNU Project, I will be working with the FSF on how to structure
the GNU Project’s relationship with the FSF in the future.

The FSF maintains some critical responsibilities in that it currently holds the copyrights to enforce the GPL. Stallman has recently called on people to continue supporting the FSF’s work, despite his resignation from the organization.

The small contingency of GNU project maintainers who penned the statement published yesterday seem to be on the same page with FSF in its rejection of Stallman’s leadership. Their message concludes with their intention to overhaul the leadership of the free software movement to be more inclusive of the people who have been alienated by Stallman’s behavior over the years:

“We think it is now time for GNU maintainers to collectively decide about the organization of the project. The GNU Project we want to build is one that everyone can trust to defend their freedom.”

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