Freenode IRC resign en masse after takeover by Korea’s crown prince

Freenode presently ranges between roughly 75,000 and 90,000 customers—that is a far cry from the 240,000 customers fellow IRC community QuakeNet had again in 2005, nevertheless it’s nonetheless fairly lots of people.

Freenode has been the world’s largest IRC community since 2013, with roughly 3 times as many customers as its closest competitor, IRCnet. Final week, the large IRC community was taken over by Korean Crown Prince Andrew Lee—a transfer that the community’s workers has apparently unanimously categorised as a “hostile takeover,” though Lee himself claims these are solely “rumors” and “merely unfaithful.”

At first blush, it is tempting for an out of doors observer—somebody who is not already conversant in the historical past of the community’s possession and administration—to shrug and say “effectively, who is aware of.” Lee lays out a number of hundred phrases of clarification in a weblog put up presently featured on Freenode’s front page—most of which sounds affordable.

However the one query Lee by no means addresses—not to mention solutions—is why at the very least 14 separate workers members would give up en masse, all disagreeing with the story he tells.

A doubtful contract

In 2017, Christel Dahlskjaer—who was, on the time, head of Freenode workers—created a company, Freenode Ltd., which she instantly sold to Lee. Dahlskjaer and Lee instructed Freenode workers and customers that the incorporation was solely performed as vital paperwork with a view to sponsor a convention and that day-to-day operations would stay unchanged.

Contract or no contract, workers and builders of Freenode keep that it wasn’t truly potential to promote the community—the workers is all volunteers, and the infrastructure itself wasn’t owned by Dahlskjaer within the first place. In response to resigning Freenode developer Aaron Jones, nonetheless, “Andrew has more cash than us, and so we can not combat this.”

Though the contract in query was signed in 2017, staffers did not start objecting till this yr, when operational adjustments started showing with out their management or consent.

A unilateral choice on promoting

In February 2021, Dahlskjaer positioned the brand for Shells—a Lee-owned firm providing cloud-based digital desktops—prominently on Freenode’s entrance web page. By itself, this may appear innocuous—FOSS initiatives settle for sponsorships and promoting on a regular basis. However staffers, who have been supposedly nonetheless in command of the community, weren’t consulted concerning the association—and they didn’t approve.

One purpose for staffer’s virulent disapproval is Shells CTO Mark Karpelès. Karpelès is the founding father of the defunct Mt. Gox bitcoin alternate, which misplaced almost 850,000 bitcoin (presently price a staggering $33.4 billion-with-a-B US {dollars}) to attackers who exploited a large safety flaw. Karpelès was discovered responsible in a Tokyo court docket of intentionally tampering with data to cowl up the alternate’s numerous losses, though he was discovered harmless of outright embezzlement.

As former staffer Aaron Jones explains in his prolonged letter of resignation—which hyperlinks to comparable bulletins from different departing high-profile staffers—this wasn’t the one subject with the brand new advert. In response to Jones, sponsorships are usually solely discovered at—making the outstanding Shells emblem within the higher proper of Freenode’s entrance web page extra of a departure from the norm than it may appear.

Jones goes on to say that Dahlskjaer was both unable or unwilling to elucidate the sudden new advert to staffers, selecting to resign as a substitute. (Lee claims that Freenode workers “harassed” Dahlskjaer into resignation; Jones and different departing staffers deny this characterization.) Freenode workers elected Tom Wesley (aka tomaw) to interchange her.

Escalation in April

Starting in April 2021, Lee’s train of management continued ramping up:

  • Staffers created a weblog post outlining adjustments in management and saying a change to newly developed back-end ircd software program Solanum. In response to Jones, Lee summarily eliminated the put up—and manually edited the web site’s built-in historical past to create the impression that it had by no means existed.
  • Later in April, a Freenode take a look at community—in use to prepare for the infrastructure shift to Solanum—was shut down with out dialogue. Wesley (tomaw) carried out the shutdown and refused to say why; Jones and others consider Lee was behind the shutdown, used risk of authorized drive to make Wesley comply, and issued associated gag orders to OFTC workers.
  • Lee registered the channel #freenode-board with out discussing it with workers—and, in response to Jones, with out correct authority (since solely official group contacts are allowed to create channels in Freenode’s major namespace, and Lee was not an official Freenode contact).
  • Shane Allen (aka nirvana), an affiliate and worker of Lee’s, bragged about “turning” tomaw, and he tried to bribe outstanding consumer Ariadne with guarantees of ops privileges, saying “I will be sure you get +o0 in #freenode so you may kick individuals. My present to you pal.”
  • On Might 11, Lee started issuing notices to workers as a gaggle and on to particular person Freenode staffers. Every thing got here from “the board”—an entity which staffers say by no means existed, and even now’s merely a euphemism for Lee himself.

On Might 12, Lee (aka rasengan) posted his model of occasions—through which he claims authorized possession of Freenode, together with a listing of grievances—in a Github gist. (The gist is significantly saltier than the version of occasions Lee posted to Freenode’s public-facing weblog every week later.)

Libera Chat

Every week after Lee’s successfully public announcement of possession and de facto dictatorial operation of Freenode, the staffers who resigned from Freenode created as a alternative.

Libera Chat is integrated as a Swedish nonprofit group, owned and operated by volunteer staffers who’re voting members of the group. It has a small, member-elected board—presently consisting of chair, treasurer, initiatives and neighborhood rep, engineering rep / vice chair, and operations rep. However most choices are to be taken by the membership as a complete.

The membership additionally elects two auditors, tasked with auditing the board’s actions on behalf of the membership. A transparency report is to be printed yearly, detailing bookkeeping and the auditors’ findings together with the usual annual report from the board itself.

All present Libera Chat boardmembers and auditors are Freenode staffers who resigned in protest of Lee’s latest actions and assumption of management.

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