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Home / Technology / A group of women trying to change the sexist culture of open source software has been harassed online

A group of women trying to change the sexist culture of open source software has been harassed online



  signal 2018 11 14 223318 1 Open Source Initiative Board members. First line, LR: Simon Phipps (chairman), Josh Simmons (board secretary), Carol Smith (board secretary) Back row, LR: Italo Vignoli, Faidon Liambotis, Molly de Blanc, Richard Fontana, Patrick Masson, Chris Lamb. 1
9659003] Open Source Initiative
  • Women running for the Open Source Initiative Board have been harassed online, they told Business Insider.
  • Open Source Initiative is best known for approving open source license and right now it is under focus when companies change software license.
  • Open source communities, where programmers voluntarily build freely available software together, have been a hostile hostile area in the technology industry towards women and other unrepresented people.
  • These OSI board members and candidates are trying to make open sources more welcome to everyone.

When Mariatta Wijaya went to a conference for the popular programming language Python 2015, it became an interest to join the volunteer community of developers who create and maintain the language. Later, after a mentor reached, she became even more involved in the Python community.

While Wijaya, a platform technician at Zapier, had positive experiences in Python, she found that not all open source projects were welcome, especially for women. This is one reason why she runs the Open Source Initiative Board, an influential organization that promotes and protects open source program environments.

"I really want to see better diversity among the people who contribute to open source," says Wijaya. Business Insider. "Not just the users, the creators of the open source. I would like to see diversity be improved. I would like to see better representation. I originally found it a barrier and didn't understand more people who look like me in this space and I felt like one outsider. "

Currently there are three women on the OSI board and a total of nine are running for seats or re-election.

But up until the election, Wijaya and other female candidates saw online harassment.

A person published on Slashdot a social news site focused on technology, discussing six female candidates in misogynist language. The poster then noticed every woman with how much of a "hot" they were.

Although this post came from just one anonymous user, and was removed by Slashdot, OSI soon began to see inappropriate comments published on its site. Each OSI candidate has a platform about his platform, and some people sent comments targeting their gender, their work, or their background.

The OSI election closes Friday and current board members Molly de Blanc and Patrick Masson said this is the first time they have seen this type of harassment of female OSI board candidates.

They say it seemed to coincide with the Slashdot record while acknowledging that harassment in open source projects is not unusual.

At the same time, OSI moderators work to limit harassment on the Wiki OSI selection and remove vulgar or inappropriate comments.

All this comes at a time when the interest in the work that OSI has done has increased.

In recent months, some open source startup programs have changed the licensing [1945901515]] on their software to limit how companies can use it and prevent cloud providers from making money on their free software. OSI approves whether or not the licenses are open sources, and it is set in the spotlight after the listed database company MongoDB submitted its new license to OSI for approval.

These license changes are controversial, as experts say these licenses violate the [open source] definition and MongoDB has then withdrawn its license from the approval process ].

Meanwhile, OSI has taken a stand to defend Open Source Definition, the official definition that lists requirements for what makes the software open source, a problem many software users have strong opinions about. It basically defines when software is free to use and share and under what circumstances software is legally protected and must be paid for. The definition has become a hot-button issue at these OSI selections.

All this, the Blanc says, has led to increased visibility for OSI, making people more aware of what OSI does.

Read more: [19659025] An influential group sponsored by the Silicon Valley tech titans warns that efforts are underway to "undermine the open source integrity"

"Seeing this kind of abuse directed at the OSI is the new , "de Blanc told Business Insider.

Open Source Harassment

Gender imbalance in technology is no secret, but it is even more intense in the open source software world, where 95% of the people participating in such projects are men, according to GitHubs Open Source survey .

"I see that society can still be toxic to under-represented groups," Wijaya said. "It has not been a safe environment. We are simpler targets for harassment just because of gender or skin color or from where we come."

Although women were as likely as men to say they are interested in making future code contributions, only 45% of women said they were very likely to do so, compared to 61% of men, GitHub's study says.

At the same time, the survey shows that women were more likely to suffer from harassment than men – 25% of women said they encountered language or content that made them feel unwelcome and 6% had treated unwanted sexual progress.

 2018 Mollyand BlenDebConf_cropped Molly de Blanc, director of the Open Source Initiative Board, speaks at DebConf 2018. Screenshot from a DebConf 2018 video captured by Patrick Masson, CC-BY-SA

de Blanc, who runs for re-election, has seen first hand this type of open source harassment. Concepts such as "social justice warriors", "SJW" and "feminists" are also used as insults against women and under-represented minorities.

Acting badly against others online has long been considered a common practice in many open sources. In September, Linus Torvalds, creator of the popular Linux kernel operating system, lowered Linux, after years of verbally abusive programmers who contributed code to the project. He promised to be more civilian when he returned.

Today, most open source projects want their communities to behave civilly and many have created or revised their codes of conduct to deal with online abuses of all kinds, including those targeted at women or other represented groups.

"When you" Use the word feminist as an insult, you create spaces where not only people who identify as feminists are welcome, but people who identify as women are not welcome, "de Blanc said.

Not" surprisingly at all "

Masson, head of OSI, says that after the trolls arrived at the OSI board's Wiki pages, OSI took immediate action.

" We never know where harassment comes from, "Masson said." The best thing we can do is to be vigilant and consistent in how we treat our society. This is really the first year we've had something of this. The profile of the organization is increasing, but at the same time there is a lot of unwanted attention. "

Masson says some controversies can be expected, but OSI is determined not to leave their volunteers for themselves." "All these candidates are volunteers moving forward in the public spotlight," said Masson. will get just because of the role they have to take on. I am very worried that we invite these people to participate and make sure they are not beaten with the generosity to move forward. "

Other Women Running The election was less surprised by the harassment comments.

"Especially the software industry and the open source software industry have dealt with problems of industry bias," said Pamela Chestek, head of Chestek Legal, to Business Insider. "I don't think this Slashdot thing was surprising at all. I think it is unfortunate that it happened."

"Anti-Choking Team"

de Blanc operates in the Debian project, an open source operating system based on Linux. In addition to contributing code, she serves on the anti-harassment which deals with harassment and the investigative team, which helps under-represented people in technology, becomes involved in open source space and finds job opportunities.

Like Wijaya, she runs the OSI board to make open source more invited to underrepresented people in tech.

She has been vocal about cyberbullying on her blog . She counted about eight times when she was the target of cyberbullying and online abuse, some of which rotated around the sex.

Likewise, Masson says that a way that OSI promotes diversity among its members is to reach out to developers outside North America. It is working to increase its membership in A sia, south america and africa.

 IMG_20190228_085657 Mariatta Wijaya, platform technician at Zapier and Python developer Veronica Hanus

Wijaya anser That mentoring can be a good way to help under-represented feel more comfortable in open source participation.

She says that part of the reason for lack of diversity is to contribute to these projects requiring leisure time outside of work. Women and people of color who are already facing pay can feel that their career would be better served by spending more time at work than by voluntarily working on open source projects. The mentor programs can help them see that their open source voluntary efforts can improve their careers, not degrade them.

"The reality is that women and colors still get paid less compared to men" Wijaya said. "That in itself makes it more difficult to motivate to contribute." When we find time to do so in the open source room, it is easier for us to be a goal for harassment and communities are not always as welcome. "[19659010] Do you have a tip? Contact this rep via email at rmchan@businessinsider.com, Twitter DM on @ rosaliechan17 or Signal, Viber or WhatsApp on +1 (224) 425-1882. (PR sites only via e-mail, thank you.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.


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