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Free software evangelist Richard Stallman is speaking at Penn next week

Hear from the controversial “father of free software.” But don't call him that, he doesn't like it.

Richard Stallman. (GIF via Giphy.com)

Fresh off the announcement that internet service providers are now legally allowed to sell your browsing data without your consent, OG free software activist Richard Stallman, a staunch proponent of online privacy, is coming to Philly.

An online privacy group called Penn for Privacy based out of the University of Pennsylvania is bringing the controversial Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, to speak on Saturday April 15th at Penn’s Fitts Auditorium. 

Stallman, 64, is known as the “father of free software.” Althought he has publicly rejected the term, it’s not that far off since he was behind the launch of the GNU Project in September 1983. He was also main author of the GNU General Public License. To date, GNU/Linux operating systems has been installed in “tens or hundreds of millions of computers,” according to Stallman’s bio.

The activist is also known for boycotting all things that infringe on users’ privacy, run paid software or limit the use of cash. In today’s world, that means he essentially has a beef with society and the internet at large: including Amazon, Twitter, Amtrak  Meetup and Eventbrite, Uberebooks, and pay toilets. Due to his concerns around user privacy online, he reportedly browses the internet only through Tor.

We asked organizer Jacob Gursky why internet-privacy-minded folks should attend. He immediately alluded to the recent news on ISPs and data usage. (BTW, here’s internet freedom advocate Kate Krauss on how you can keep your privacy intact.)

“I think especially after the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission regulations, the idea that your computer can run code that is transparent to you is a very powerful one,” said organizer Gursky. “It’s hard to have a backdoor in something that is watched by hundreds of people, whether it reports back to a company that wants your information or a government.”

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