[Members] For the interoperability of the Web's giants: an open letter - La Quadrature Du Net

Maxime Buquet pep at bouah.net
Mon Jun 29 14:39:32 UTC 2020

On 2020/06/29, Dave Cridland wrote:
> On Sat, 27 Jun 2020 at 11:09, Maxime Buquet <pep at bouah.net> wrote:
> > Hi members,
> >
> >
> > https://www.laquadrature.net/en/2019/06/14/for-the-interoperability-of-the-webs-giants-an-open-letter-from-70-organisations/
> >
> > I invite you to read this article.
> >
> > I strongly think the XSF should encourage movements like this one,
> > promoting values we stand for (interoperability, in this case). As I am
> > adding an agenda item for board to discuss, I'm interested in knowing
> > what you think (and would also be good feedback for board I assume).

Thanks for the answer!

> this letter actually calls for
> legislative action to - in particular - coerce Facebook, Twitter, et al
> into supporting ActivityPub.

ActivityPub is only cited as an example of protocols allowing for
interoperability. They could also have cited XMPP (they didn't). I
assume the point is to get "interoperability" into the law not a
specific implementation of it.

> I'm always a little nervous about:
> a) Solving technical problems by legislative action: If the only way we can
> get traction toward our goals is by having Governments force the issue,
> then that doesn't feel like success. I believe that interoperability is not
> a goal in itself, it provides actual useful benefits to both end users and
> service operators, and if those benefits are seen as insufficient to
> persuade either of those beneficiaries, then we should either describe them
> better or improve the technology. Less stick, more carrot.

Goals stated in the letter to me look like:
- ensure everyone not to fall captive from a platform
- allows anyone to read on service A content published by their contacts
  on service B and to reply as if they were on service B too.

This pretty much looks like a definition of interoperability.

One might be able to implement the first goal copying all my contact
data on their platform and allowing me to communicate with them somehow.
It's a bit harder for the second goal.

In any case surely if there are other ways, I'm sure LQDN (and related)
would be happy to hear and consider them.

Interoperability as described by LQDN in this letter, and also in others
articles[0], is directly opposed to any economical interests (the
"attention economy") said platforms currently have.

Maybe someday when we discover a carrot we can start promoting it, in
the meantime I'd rather regulate and protect users. This would
definitely feel like a success to me.

> A related point
> would be what this law would actually say? What would count as a Social
> network for the purposes of the "ActivityPub Act 2020"?

I agree this would have to be defined, and I think it's ok. First get
law makers to agree to objectives.

> b) Making the XMPP Standards Foundation a political organisation: Calling
> for a change in government policy is a political campaign - there is, I
> think, no argument there. Political campaigning groups have different
> regulations and tax implications in different countries, and I'm personally
> more comfortable with a politically neutral organisation anyway.

This depends on the definition of political campaining. The IRS[1] seems
to define it as:
| directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening
| in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any
| candidate for elective public office.
Which is really not what this is about. But then, IANAL.

Then "politically neutral" is another phrase that I would be careful
about. I guess what you really mean is "not actively engaging in
political activities". Now how do you define "actively" and what do you
define as "political activity".

> I should make it clear that (a) is something I would expect many reasonable
> people to disagree with - I think there are many cases where
> legislative intervention is the most appropriate way of changing market
> pressures to gain a result that would otherwise not occur, I'm just not
> convinced this is one of them.

Indeed. I replied to this above.

> In any case, if a bunch of people wanted to put together a political
> campaigning organisation, I would absolutely not argue against it, and
> (depending on the choices made) I might even join it. But turning the XSF
> into one seems like a potentially risky development.

I personally don't see the risk you are talking about, but there might
be other interests involved in this discussion that I am not aware of
and thus I am not considering them.

[0]: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/2019/06/05/regulating-the-internet-through-decentralization/
[1]: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-intervention-by-section-501c3-tax-exempt-organizations

Maxime “pep” Buquet
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