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Cover image for ICE, Github, Tech & Politics

ICE, Github, Tech & Politics

graciano profile image graciano codes Originally published at graciano.me ・4 min read

Crossposted from my site.

I started writing this thing when Github proactively banned users from Iran, Syria and other places. But I didn't think I could add much to the discussion, not any more than what the affected people were already saying. But something itched in me, and that is the image used in their manifesto repo:

image displaying the github octocat in an "evil" characterisation with the word "politics" as a caption

I think this perspective come from a (political) view that technology is (or should be) somewhat "neutral" or "not ideological". This will never be the case. I say it is necessarily a political view because it is an assesment on how the relation between a service (product of programmer's labor power) will work in the world. It's not by negating that something exists that you'll solve any problem. It is because of politics that twitter doesn't ban white supremacists. It is because of politics that we work 8 hours a day and not more (or less). It is because of the international division of labor that you are even reading this article in English. Or about why github even exists as the de facto platform for sharing code with the world. Politics should not be seen as a good or bad thing. Politics is a thing. And depoliticizing things will only benefit those in power.

With that said, today we had the news that Github will renew it's contract with ICE.

First, why ICE shouldn't even exist

ICE is the "Immigration and Customs Enforcement" for the US government. It's a police-like entity dedicated to the sole purpose of investigating and deporting immigrants. Immigration is not a crime. There are crimes related to imigration, yes. An undocumented (no human is "ilegal") immigrant is not more likely to commit crimes than any other person. The movement of people in the planet they were born within is not a crime and shouldn't ever be considered as such.

Github seems to agree with me, but if you're not convinced, here are a few resources on the subject:

And here are some videos:

Back to Github, open source, etc

So, when they made the ban, I left github. Migrated all my projects to Gitlab. Since their response to this was quiet and in my opinion did not make up for what they did, I decided not to come back for the hacktoberfest event. I'm currently working on an open source music project and could be benefiting from the PRs. But now I think more and more people should migrate their projects to other platforms. Since Github is now owned by Microsoft, there's less reason to believe they'll do the right thing. They still have a monopoly on desktop systems and shouldn't be expected to behave on contrary to their practices on more than two decades now.

Chef tried to do delete their gem, but they had to republish it so their non-genocidal customers could use their product. And maybe this can be the start of a more broad discussion on FOSS as an ecosystem.

There was some discussion on dev.to about open source funding and I remember when Lerna had some discussion about this very subject more than a year ago. Maybe there needs to be more discussion on how the product of programmers' labor will be used other than funding (not to say that funding is not important). The Free software was a beginning, but the move towards the unregulated (economically liberal?) market of now is in my oppinion a move backwards. It allows for this situation we are in now. The most used license (MIT) is like a Pontius Pilate's wash my hands way of saying "you're free to use this and if bad come to you or you do harm to others, it's your fault." Maybe we need more humane alternatives, I don't know, just raising questions here.

If you work on Github I won't ask you to quit your job. But I'll suggest you to listen to this former Google worker that left their job when heard about the Dragonfly project, starting at 5:30 in Mozzila's IRL podcast.

#noTechForICE

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@graciano

PT|EN. Carioca software writer, amateur musician, football fanatic. Grande apreciador de batidas de limão. Warning: lots of swearing in Portuguese @ twitter.

Discussion

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I think rhetoric like this is very dangerous. This... uproar... of company policies, and who uses their services, etc is a very slippery slope. Where does it end? Cancel culture is a poison in our civilization. There are many more productive ways to help with the ICE issue, and it's not by 'canceling' GitHub or quitting a job ( sometimes thats on if the company is directly involved in evil acts). This is a very reactive way to what? Get off a platform that millions of users depend on because you have a difference in ideology?

Why is it that there is only this type of outrage for this main issue. I don't see developers getting up in arms because modern-day slaves, basically, are the ones cutting the sugarcane for their Redbull and coffee. I don't see developers getting all bent out of shape that bottled water companies are making billions of dollars at the cost of the American taxpayer and selling it at a premium to third world countries that live on less than a dollar a day ( the bottles still cost 3 dollars over there as well ).

No one is perfect. Everyone has differences of opinion. I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish here. Getting GitHub to change their mind... maybe. doubtful, but maybe.

I've seen a lot of developers, with their paychecks, and their new MacBook Pros, and their iPhone 11 Pros beat their chest talking about civil rights, and human rights, and that's all they do. Bang keys on a keyboard.

I feel for the people at the border, I really do. There should be some serious overhauling of that system to better care for people because it's not how we treat our middle class and up that defines us, its how we treat the poor, and the sick.
That being said, These people did commit a crime. And they continue to commit the same crime, every day. Being in a country, to which they have not gone through the proper process to get in to.

Your protest on GitHub isn't going to do anything to help them.
Some Ideas...
Get involved with an action group. Go to the border. Volunteer. Maybe, help write software that can help these people. Call your congress-person/senator. Run for office.

Take a proactive approach, and stop yelling into a dark closet.

I would love to hear your proactive ideas on how we can help these people. Maybe using software. maybe raise some money for them. We need to come together with these problems.

That's what makes GitHub so great, very skilled people that come together to solve problems. Let us start thinking about how to solve it.

 

"these people did commit a crime" i agree with that ... but to be honest when 40+ refugee are willing to cross a raging sea on a raft boat made for no more than 4 people, they're willing to commit a crime because what they're running away from is worse than death, I'm not sure about your life & what difficulties you went through but realize that most immigrants are innocent (some of them are bad people i know that) and are just looking for an escape, they went through hell.

I live in North Africa, seeing dead bodies of African/Syrian/others men, women and children on the shores because they didn't make it to Europe isn't an uncommon sight i remember one month almost all runs to Europe failed and over 500 people lost their lives and ended up on laying on the beaches of my country, please remember that these people's lives were also destroyed by actions committed by 1st world countries, some lost their homes, families and loved ones, some don't have any money, some don't even have papers to prove who they are.

It's really unfair to blame someone for committing a crime without looking at their motivations, please be empathetic to illegal immigrants, going through the process of getting a tourist visa (which you'll 100% need to apply for asylum) takes 15 days to 3 months (depending on the country), and requires large amounts of money (to an illegal immigrant) and a bank account and health insurance, and assuming you'll even get accepted for a visa announcing you're seeking asylum at a border is not a very nice experience (usually), You'll have to live in their camps, You'll have to eat free shitty food, You'll have to work shitty slave jobs (and yeah it's literally slavery most immigrants legal and illegal work for anywhere from 2 dollars to 10 dollars, and I'm talking about people without education or skills which a lot of immigrants lack).

So it never really gets better for illegal immigrants even when they cross border, if you're an illegal immigrant you're a slave, and you get treated like a slave and you get paid like one too (just enough for food and water).

They're committing a crime not because they want to but because their lives depend on it.

 

Cancel culture is a poison in our civilization.

The words "Cancel culture" is just a new label applied to a concept that exists in any society: Acting badly results in people not wanting to interact with you. In this case, if github is doing something morally reprehensible, I don't see what's so bad about signal-boosting that so that more of our community learns about such reprehensible acts and see that maybe they should find someone else who offers the same service.

Why is it that there is only this type of outrage for this main issue. I don't see developers getting up in arms because modern-day slaves, basically, are the ones cutting the sugarcane for their Redbull and coffee. I don't see developers getting all bent out of shape that bottled water companies are making billions of dollars at the cost of the American taxpayer and selling it at a premium to third world countries that live on less than a dollar a day ( the bottles still cost 3 dollars over there as well ).

This is an odd "whataboutism". Even if we didn't discuss these things you mentioned (we do), this would not make it wrong to discuss other unethical things done by a company our community and profession interacts with so often.

These people did commit a crime. And they continue to commit the same crime, every day. Being in a country, to which they have not gone through the proper process to get in to.

Legalism is a sad thing. If something is in the law but is morally wrong, you should oppose it. That's how progress is made. You don't wash your hands and say "Oh well, nothing can be done here."

 

How could we say "a gente bebe água da bica, é de graça" so English speakers could understand?

Algunos no tienen un pico para beber.

Please don't do this. Your sentence didn't make sense. You literally said "some don't have beak to drink shape"

agreed.

Some don't have a spout to drink from.

You don't know our reality. And the literal translation is not enough, that's why I made the question.

Ok. My apologies.

but the same could be said here. You don't know our reality. Careful with saying others don't understand when you are talking about others.

I'd like to register here that the original comment I answered was in Portuguese, and it said "alguns não tem bico para beber forma". It doenst make sense. That was very desrespectful. And Mr Robinson has managed to make it worse, editing it to be in Spanish, saying "Algunos no tienen un pico para beber." Spanish is not a language I'm fluent on and I can't say if this made sense. Particularly I don't know if the term "pico" can be equivalent to "bica", that is a natural source of water, sometimes with a tap installed. This is very common in the Brazil's southeast, and used by low and high income families. I don't know if the English term "spout" would have been suficient for that.

In no way did I mean to offend you. I hope that you will accept my apologies.

Thank you for reminding me why conversing online is a fruitless battle.

Good luck with your endeavors in the future.

A spout is where I get water from as well.

 

I'm not really "yelling into a dark closet" am I?

Although I think you have some great points here. Why make accusations like that? A boycott is not a twitter like "cancel". And I'm not really calling for a boycott, I'm trying to start a debate. I'll try to adress some of what you asked here, because there were a lot of good questions.

I've seen a lot of developers, with their paychecks, and their new MacBook Pros, and their iPhone 11 Pros beat their chest talking about civil rights, and human rights, and that's all they do. Bang keys on a keyboard.

I'm actually in a party in Brazil. I worked in David Miranda's first campaign for Rio de Janeiro's city council. Trying to discuss things on the internet is part of what a party can and should do, but here I'm not officially representing them, that's why I didn't mention their name.

This... uproar... of company policies, and who uses their services, etc is a very slippery slope. Where does it end?

I think you made a genuine point here, and maybe there is not a solution like you asked in the end of your comment. It is pretty legitimate to question or even having the right to determine to some extent how the product of your labour will be used. I'm not sure on how to adress this overall, but as I stated in the post, the current MIT-like licenses are creating this situation. The permissiveness of them and the status quo of always using them are creating an ecosystem less healthy than their Free Software predecersors.

You don't have to agree with me here, but don't you think at least that this is worth discussing?

 

I think that things are great for debating and discussing.

On the OS issue. I know you put a license on your repo, but... it's still part of the public sphere now, and you might not even know if someone has ever used your software for good or for evil.
To tht point, there are other comments about "imaginary lines" and that there should be no borders. By that logic, if you put your software in a public space, there should be no license. See what I'm trying to say here.

Debate all you want, and I'd love to work on solutions here. But this isn't like a bus boycott. There are more productive ways we can spend our time making the world a better place.

I'm happy to hear you're involved. We should spend our time getting other people involved, and not polarizing what we determine to be differences in ideology.

There seems to be a serious issue of migration. And we are too busy placing band-aids on the scrapes and cut, and not the hemorrhaging that is happening just prior to the issue.

America can not be a lifeboat. Where does it end? How many people can we let cross the border? 5 million? 50? 100 million? 200 million? There needs to be some responsibility, we all live on this planet together, but we cant all live in the same country. Hell... pretty soon we will have to live on other planets.

These are areas we need to focus on. MEGA. Make Earth Great Again. pardon the trump-pun, but that's the focus. How do we make these countries liveable for the mass migrants? How do we get them clean water and jobs? How do we get their countries good health care, and better food, better schools?

These are the issues. Not ICE. Not GitHub. How do we save their homes so they can return and stay in them? How do we use our collective abilities in technology to raise these people up?

These are the issues. Not ICE. Not GitHub.

Politics is exactly the thing that gives power to decide what "are issues" or not. This kind of "rethoric" as you say, is depoliticizing.

America can not be a lifeboat. Where does it end? How many people can we let cross the border? 5 million? 50? 100 million? 200 million? There needs to be some responsibility, we all live on this planet together, but we cant all live in the same country. Hell... pretty soon we will have to live on other planets.

The USA is the main driver of such migration. Ever since the 50s it has destabilized other nations in Latin America, the Middle-East and Africa for gains in the global political stage and in economy. And it hasn't stopped.

To demand responsibility from the victims of such destabilization is misguided at best. I understand that this is not readily apparent (especially if you are American), but it's how the USA has built its hegemony. There's a reason we call it neocolonialism. Even without an official state presence in the "colonies", the "suzerain" controls and takes resources, without having to deal with any of the consequences that happen to the locals.

And again, dismantling ICE is not equivalent to open borders. As I said in another comment, the US had borders before ICE, and it will continue having them after. There are other countries that have an influx of undocumented migrants, and they don't deal with that situation by putting them in concentration camps with living conditions worse than even "regular" prisons (which shouldn't have terrible conditions either, but that's another topic).

 

I want to see an open source general strike. So much profitable infrastructure depends on free labor in open source. I think major change could be achieved if we banded together and brought that to a screeching halt. We could list demands, like ending ICE contracts and ending fossil fuel contracts, and refuse to take pull requests, publish versions, or fix bugs until those demands are met. No tech for ICE can be accomplished if we threaten no tech for anyone.

 

That would be great! But we need a strong and organized movement to make it possible.

I won't engage with personal attacks anymore, but it's not productive to create a "both sides" view when there were a lot of different things to discuss in the original post.

Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Would be nice to mark posts like that as #politic or smth, so its easier to add ignore them

discuss tag is a pure parody in this case - first sign of someone with different opinion and we have a personal attack and imaginatory accusations - this is a definition of anti-discussion.

There is the word "politics" literally in the title. The issue of depolitization was highlighted in the text. You are free to stop reading something at any point. Why make this misleading accusation like I fooled someone?

The only way to not see the content in the feed is to follow the tag and set the priority to negative value. Thats why tagging posts correctly is important.

I think @neilonsoftware is right that we're not getting anywhere without a calm discussion.

Folks are going to disagree on this issue, but let's try not to let this escalate to the level of personal attacks. Though this is often tough when a topic is particularly heated, we must try hard to keep discussion on the issue itself and follow the Code of Conduct at all times. If we can't do this, it's best to just move on.

In this instance, it seems like we've reached a dead-end. So let's please not take this any further.

 

Why Gitlab though? Aren't they based in the US and, therefore, subject to the same regulations as GitHub?

 

From my perspective, github isn't doing any of these things because of regulations. All of the good enough alternatives I know are from US or Canada. I'd love to use something from, say Portugal or South Africa, but I don't know. The alternative to choose is not the point of what I'm saying here.

 

Since you think ICE should be abolished, what would you propose in its place to enforce immigration law? Or, are you an open borders advocate?

 

I don't know OP's opinion on that (although full disclosure, we are friends IRL), but yeah, there shouldn't really be any borders.

And even if that's impractical, do keep in mind that ICE was founded in 2003, it's not like it's impossible to have a border without an organization that puts people in concentration camps for simply being at the "wrong" side of an imaginary line. The USA had borders before them, and it will continue having borders after it is dismantled and every official responsible for ICE is tried at the Hague and prosecuted for their crimes.

ICE is not meant to protect the borders. It's meant to target latino/minority undocumented migrants as part of the US's nationwide Security Theater and as a way to maintain a status quo that benefits the top of the socio-economic hierarchy.

 

This isn't a discussion about "open borders" as you framed it, but it is a discussion on whether or not tech workers should have a say if the product of their labour should be used in genocidal actions.

But to answer your first question: there's no need to have a special police-like entity to treat immigrants as guilty until otherwise proved. To tell other country specifically how they should address something would be doing a thing I criticize them for doing.

 
 

Immigration is not a crime.

ICE is fighting ILLEGAL immigration, which is illegal, by definition.

Dont jump into everything media serves you, remember, they lie more than you can imagine. They invent news for the sake of being first and controversial.

 
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Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

lol

 
Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Still not a crime. Don't tell people what to think, gringo colonizador.

 

You are trying to tell over 900 people in github what to think and do.
Who are you?