5 min read

Facts of the Controversy at hand

  1. To “help make the kernel community a welcoming environment to participate in”, Linux accepted a new Code of Conduct earlier this month.
  2. This created conflict among the developer community because of the clauses in the CoC.
  3. The CoC is derived from a Contributor Covenant , created by Coraline Ada Ehmke, a software developer, an open-source advocate, and an LGBT activist.
  4. Just 30 minutes after signing this CoC, Principal kernel contributor- Linus Torvalds sent a mail apologizing for his past behavior and announced temporary break to improve upon his behavior.
    “This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry”

This decision of taking a break is speculated among many as a precautionary measure to prevent Torvalds from violating the newly created code of conduct.

  1. Controversies took better shape after Caroline’s sarcastic tweet-                                               Source: Twitter

The new Linux Code of Conduct is causing huge conflict

Linux’s move from its Code of Conflicts to a new Code of Conduct has not been received well by many of its developers. Some have threatened to pull out their blocks of code important to the project to revolt against the change.

This could have serious consequences because Linux is one of the most important pieces of open source software in the world. If threats are put into action, large parts of the internet would be left vulnerable to exploits. Applications that use Linux would be like an incomplete Jenga stack that could collapse any minute.

Why some Linux developers are opposed to the new code of conduct

Here is a summary of developers views on the Code of Conduct that, according to them, justifies their decision:

  1. Amending to the CoC would mean good contributors are removed over trivial matters or even events that happened a long time ago–like Larry Garfield, a prominent Drupal contributor who was asked to step down after his sex fetish was made public.
  2. There is a lack of proper definitions for punishments, time frames, and what constitutes abuse or harassment, inappropriate behavior and leaves the Code of Conduct wide open for exploitation.
  3.  It gives the people charged with enforcement immense power.
  4. It could force acceptance of contributions that wouldn’t make the cut if made by cis white males.
  5. Developers are concerned that Linux will start accepting patches from anyone and everyone just to keep par with the Code of Conduct. It will no longer depend on the ability of a person to code, but on social parameters like race, color, sex, and gender.

Why some developers believe in the new Linux Code of Conduct

On the other side of the argument, here are some potential reasons why the CoC will foster social justice:

  1. Encouraging an inclusive and safe space for women, LGBTQIA+, and People of Color, who in the absence of the CoC are excluded, harassed, and sometimes even raped by cis white males.
  2. The CoC aims to overcome meritocracy, which in many organizations has consistently shown itself to mainly benefit those with privilege, to the exclusion of underrepresented people in technology
  3. VA vastmajority of Linux contributors are cis white males. CC’s Code of Conduct would enable the building of a more diverse demographic array of contributors

What does this mean to the developer community?

Linux includes programmers who are always free to contribute to its open source platform. Contributing good code would help them climb up the ladder and become a ‘maintainer’. The greatest strength of Linux was its flexibility. Developers would contribute to the kernel and be concerned about only a single entity- their code patch. The Linux community would judge the code based on its quality.

However, with the new Code of Conduct, critics say this could make passing judgement on code more challenging, For them, the Code of Conduct is a set of rules that expects everyone to be at equal levels in the community. It could mean that certain patches are accepted for fear of contravening the Code of Conduct. Here is what Caroline Ada Ehmke was forthright in her criticism of this view:


Source: Twitter


Clearly, many of the fears of the Code of Conduct’s critics haven’t yet come to pass. What they’re ultimately worried about is that there could be negative consequences.

Google Developer Ted Ts’o next on the hit list

Earlier this week, activist Sage Sharp, tweeted about Ted Ts’o:

                                                     Source: Twitter

This perhaps needs some context – the beginning of this argument dates all the way back to 2011 when Ts’o when was a member of the Linux Foundation’s technical advisory board-participated in a discussion on the mailing list for the Australian national Linux conference that year, making comments that were later interpreted by Aurora as rape apologism.

Using Aurora’s piece as a fuse, Google employee Matthew Garrett slammed Ts’o on his beliefs. In 2017, yielding to the demands of SJWs, Google threw out James Damore, an engineer who circulated an internal creed about reverse discrimination in hiring practices. The SJW’s are coming for him and the best way to go forward would be to “take a break”, just like Linus did.

As claimed by Caroline, the underlying aim of the CoC was to guide people in behaving in a respectable way and create a positive environment for people irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and political views. However, overlooking this aim, developers are concerned with the loopholes in the CoC.
Gain more insights on this news as well as views from members of the Linux community at itfloss.

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