[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: EFF bribery and corruption, not!
> True or False, the EFF accepted money from AT&T in return for the EFF's
> support on various issues/bills before congress wherein AT&T came out on
> top in it's effort to commercialize parts of the Internet for it's own
> monetary gain?
> I've that's not bribery and corruption of what otherwise
> is supposed to be a non-profit organization, then I don't know what is.
> 'nuf said.
You don't know what is.
You have managed to produce a mishmash of several false rumors,
* AT&T is a minor contributor to EFF, and has no effect on its
policy positions, which are set by its Board (including me).
CPSR and a few other organizations assumed that EFF wasn't
taking the same position as they were on various issues because
EFF had been corrupted by corporate funding. In reality,
we were more interested in enforcing rights than in forced
equity (e.g. school choice rather than busing; no licensing
of broadcasters rather than requiring "equal time" to rebut).
We disagree because we're more libertarian than liberal,
not because we sold out.
* AT&T isn't crushing the net by commercialization. A bill
introduced by Cong. Markey (which I spoke with him about
personally, when I happened to be in DC) would've required
that Internet access be provided solely by commercial
carriers, not by the NSF. It already is -- ANS is a
commercial carrier. The idea was to make *sure* the
government stops owning networks (which it would then
control the users of, with Acceptable Use Policies,
censorship, exclusion of political opponents, etc).
Instead, it would subsidize educational and research
organizations so they can buy network access from the
commercial carrier of their choice, the same way they buy
telephone service. Whether by malice or mistake, a "modem
tax"-like rumor spread through the net that the bill would
kill academic use of Internet. You fell for it.
I've enclosed a relevant article from Computer Underground Digest.
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1993 20:23:18 CDT
From: Jim Thomas <[email protected]>
Subject: File 1--Has the EFF SOLD OUT?!?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been co-opted by the
telecommunications conglomerates and has, as a consequence, lost it's
integrity and credibility. Or so some critics would have us believe.
Especially since the re-organization of The EFF, allegations that they
have "sold out" by accepting contributions from telephone
companies--or worse, that EFF now is implicitly in the employ of
telephone companies--persist. This allegation seems not only
unfounded, but does a disservice to the cybercommunity by falsely
maligning the integrity of one of the two (CPSR being the other) most
active and effective organizations working to establish and preserve
the rights of the electronic realm.
Because I am a dues-paying member of EFF and have recently sent my
subscription fee to CPSR, I am not a dispassionate observer. Both
groups are effective, and--even when in disagreement, I respect the
goals and strategies chosen by each group. Therefore, as a member of
EFF, I'm troubled by some of the public commentary I've read on
Usenet, BBSes, and public access systems that continue to
irresponsibly tarnish the integrity of EFF with false allegations.
Some of the basis for criticism rests on rumors. Perhaps some derives
from malice. But, the bulk may simply be a lack of information about
EFF's funding sources and an imperfect understanding about the
relationship between funders and recipients and the obligations that
relationship entails. I see nothing *inherently* improper about EFF
(or any organization) accepting funds from organizations whose goals,
ideology or practices may not overlay perfectly with those of the
recipients. Let's look at a few issues.
1. HOW MUCH DOES EFF RECEIVE FROM TELECOS? According to EFF sources,
roughly eight percent of their $1.6 million operation budget comes
from telecom sources, with no more than five percent coming from a
single source. Fiscal ratios change, and whether the exact sum is
seven or 11 percent matters nil. This is a useful chunk of resources,
but hardly substantial. It is certainly not a sufficient amount to
cause a crisis if it were withdrawn. The remainder of EFF's resources
are reported to derive from private donors, membership fees, and
revenue-generating activities (such as sales of t-shirts). Both in the
Usenet discussion group (comp.org.eff.talk) and in its newsletters,
EFF has been open about its funding sources and has never concealed or
minimized contributions by corporate donors, including telecos.
Therefore, EFF's alleged ethical malfeasance does not lie in failure
to conceal its funding resources. Nor does it lie in a dependency
relationship with the donors.
2. WHAT OBLIGATIONS DOES EFF OWE THE TELECOS? The broader question
here centers on what obligations a donor might expect from the
recipient. It is hardly unusual for organizations to accept funds from
contributors whose interests overlap. Examples include contributions
by R.J. Reynolds tobacco and The Playboy Foundation to the ACLU to--as
a personal example--my own former funding by the National Institute of
Justice. Does the ACLU support freedom of speech because it is funded
in part by those with a commercial interest in protecting it? Should
the ACLU abstain from taking a position on smokers'/non-smokers'
rights because of funding sources? Should I have refused federal
funding lest I be accused (as I once was) of being little more than a
paid lackey of federal police and social control interests? Criticism
of EFF for its funding sources and suspicion of the strings that might
be attached extend into the lives of many of us. However, it is rare
that general donations require any substantive changes in the behavior
or principles of recipients. It is also common for well-endowed donors
to spread their largess to a variety of groups with ends often
(seemingly) antithetical to each other and even to the donor.
There is no evidence whatsoever that EFF has changed its direction to
satisfy donors. In fact, the recent re-organization at EFF, however
much some of us might be disappointed by the emphasis, is fully
consistent with their original policy statement. In fact, a careful
reading of the founding EFF statement and its recent public policy
formulations indicate that the re-organization was primarily
structural rather than the reflection of a new philosophy. As the
CPSR/EFF/ACLU coalition in the 2600 Magazine Washington Mall incident
of 1992 suggest, the EFF continues to involve itself with those types
of issues that led to its founding. And, as Mike Godwin's continued
involvement with EFF and his willingness to help those in need of
legal advice attest, EFF remains the first resource most of us think of
when we seek computer-related legal assistance. Those who know Mike
and EFF founders John Barlow and Mitch Kapor cannot, in their wildest
fantasies, imagine even the most generous donor influencing their
behavior or principles.
3. WHAT ARE THE ETHICAL/LEGAL OBLIGATIONS OF RECIPIENTS? Federal and
state statutes, as well as various professional codes of ethics,
specify obligations that might lead to a conflict of interest. The
attorneys amongst us can elaborate on these. However, there is
absolutely no evidence that the EFF approaches even the strictest
conflict of interest threshold. Its coincidental interests with
telecos involve policy and legislation affecting primarily the
development of an "information highway" and the attendant technology.
The EFF is not litigating on behalf of any telecos, it is not
(according to EFF sources and their documents) serving in a client
relationship with them, and it is engaged in no activity that--at
least by any apparent logic--could be construed to place the EFF in a
conflict of interest situation. EFF's initiative and perseverance in
the Steve Jackson Games litigation would seem prima facie evidence
that the EFF is committed to principle and not to funding expedience.
There is room for considerable intellectual disagreement over the
focus, goals, and organization of EFF, CPSR, and, I suppose, even CuD.
But the one issue that is indisputable is the integrity, commitment,
and credibility the EFF possesses. Because there is nary a soupcon of
evidence to to suggest cooptation, it's time to end this unnecessary
and destructive bickering about EFF's funding sources.
Those who have taken the trouble to follow the public policy
statements and read the EFF electronic and hardcopy newsletters, will
find nothing new in my comments. Those who do not receive the
newsletter and do not follow CuD's periodic summaries of the
activities of groups such as the EFF and CPSR might have been
influenced by rumors and misinformation. Those of us who are concerned
about the future of "cyberspace" should remember our debt to these
groups. Part of that debt means that we squelch false rumors that risk
irreparably tarnishing the reputations and subverting the effectiveness
of groups from whose actions we all benefit.