When we heard the news about the Bucha massacre this week, civilians bound with cable ties, executed and dumped in mass graves, we couldn't help thinking about the sinister tactics Debian uses to silence dissent.
On 5 September 2014, Don Armstrong wrote on the public debian-project mailing list that every censorship decision is notified to all Debian volunteers subscribed to debian-private:
If anything more than a warning occurs, it is announced on debian-private@, which enables Debian Developers to review the actions that listmaster@ has taken, and override them via GR.
One of the listmasters, Alexander Wirt (formorer) admits in a post on debian-private that he hasn't been following the procedure. In about 10 cases he didn't notify other volunteers on debian-private, he had to look in his sent mail folder to find the bodies:
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 17:31:58 +0100
From: Alexander Wirt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Ban for email@example.com posting to to firstname.lastname@example.org
To: Ian Jackson <email@example.com>
CC: Ean Schuessler <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
... snip ...
just for curiousness I checked my sent box how many bans I raised since I got listmaster (which is more or less 5 years ago) and I raised ~10 bans, most of them temporay, in that time. I know that other listmaster raised not as "much" bans in that time. ... snip ... So please can we stop insulting listmasters about censorship, I personally find this disgusting and offending.
Wirt has commented on the censorship of Thilos Rich in the systemd debate but he has 10 skeletons in the closet that he deliberately kept hidden.
Who are these mysterious 10 people? Are we talking about Linus Torvalds, who is banned from DebConf or maybe Dr Richard Stallman?
These are political prisoners. Victims typically receive a message telling them that if they tell anybody about the ban they will be subject to public humiliation.
Dr Norbert Preining came forward publicly on 26 December 2018 and admitted being the subject of censorship. Nobody had informed debian-private when they started trying to squeeze Dr Preining into a body bag, they hoped to make him disappear anonymously, like the bodies in mass graves.
When and why are these tactics used in Debian? It usually involves questions about money. If you ask why a woman who had a shared travel history with the Debian leader received a $6,000 internship, you are almost certain to be subject to one of these secret bans/censorship too. Debian oligarchs do not want to draw any attention to these cases, not even on debian-private so they blackmail people to disappear quietly.
Debian Social Contract point #3: We will not hide problems
Debian Diversity Statement: The Debian Project welcomes and encourages participation by everyone
Joseph Goebbels: Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.