So, thirty years ago if you wanted to get a new computer and use it you had to surrender your freedom by installing a user-subjugating proprietary operating system. So I decided to fix that by developing another operating system and make it free, and it’s called GNU, but most the time you’ll hear people erroneously calling it Linux. Please, please give us equal mention. Linux is the name of one component, the kernel of this system. If you call it GNU plus Linux, you’ll give the principal developers equal mention.
However, of course, we also with our computers nowadays talk to the Internet, which is another way that our freedom can be taken away. The Internet was originally designed with the idea that your computer could talk with my computer if we wanted to do something together, the end-to-end principle. But this has been trashed by a bunch of companies like ISPs that don’t allow subscribers to receive connections, computers designed to be so weak that the only thing you could do with them is use them as front end for centralized services. And of course the companies that set up these centralized services to try to surveil people as much as possible, and hand over all the information they collect to the NSA. Which turns the whole thing into something monstrous.
So if we want the Internet to be something good for human freedom instead of the final curtain call for human freedom, we need to fight hard. And above all we’ve got to beware of anyone proposing smart this or that that’s going to talk to the Internet, or the Internet of Things. Their idea I guess is that every appliance in your house would be yet another surveillance opportunity for the NSA. And also if it’s running non-free software another way for companies to control you and probably have bad security so that lots of others can mistreat you. I won’t let any of the things in my domicile be part of the Internet of Things unless it’s running free software and set up by people I know I can trust not to turn it into a tentacle of surveillance.
And one of the things we need to prevent this is proper laws. That is, not the laws businesses want. For instance, if we switch from using landline telephones to Voice Over IP, for that to be a step forward rather than a step back we’ve got to make sure that common carrier laws that apply to landline telephones (except where companies have succeed here in purchasing the abolition of these good regulations) we’ve go to make sure it’s the same for any replacement system that we might use. Which translates basically into network neutrality. We’ve got to have the totally clear and firm network neutrality, just as firm as for telephone lines. So, if you agree with any of this stuff, you might want to join the Free Software Foundation at fsf.org.
Richard Stallman profile, Internet Hall of Fame 2013