On Sunday, free software repository F-Droid decided to remove Spinster, a feminist social media site, from its available apps. Following the decision, I was banned from the F-Droid chatroom for asking questions about the decision.
F-Droid admin, Marcus Hoffmann, justified the decision by claiming, "We will not have feminism discussion here."
F-Droid is an alternative to Google Play Store, which allows users to download mobile apps which are free and open source. F-Droid has previously stated that they would allow apps like Fedilab, which is similar to Spinster. The only difference is that Spinster is primarily used by women, especially feminists, to discuss issues related to women's rights.
In August 2019, Google Play banned Spinster, forcing the developers to find an alternative to make the app accessible to users. Although the free-software community has been explicitly hostile to feminists in the past, this was the next best alternative.
Now, F-Droid is working hand-in-hand with Google to silence women and prevent them from accessing services.
When Spinster co-founder, Mary Kate Fain (author), joined the F-Droid chat to ask questions about the decision, she was banned from the chatroom:
Alex Gleason, Spinster Co-Founder, was also banned from the room after calling out the irony of banning a woman who was calling out the silencing women:
The banning comes after false allegations were made about Spinster by men's rights activists. Spinster had previously been accepted into F-Droid's repository.
F-Droid contributor Andreas Demmelbauer opened this issue after spamming multiple false reports to the Spinster moderator team, and then claimed that moderators had not taken action on "hate speech" (his account was, in fact, given a warning for spamming). Demmelbauer further clarified stating, "mis-genedering(sic) is hate speech."
This position has been widely considered a major threat to free speech, something the Free Software community previously championed. Demmelbauer admitted, "these cites are for themselves not enough to block a whole network" and that "I didn't find any personal threats or whatever," yet he proceeded to advocate for Spinster's removal regardless.
Demmelbauer did not find any instances of actual hate speech or calls to violence because this content is explicitly banned on Spinster and is heavily moderated by a diverse team of women.
The F-Droid admin team is entirely made up of men, including Hoffman and Hans-Christoph Steiner. Less than 10% of F-Droid contributors appear to be women.
If you think the silencing of women in tech is wrong, please reach out to Marcus at: [email protected], @fdroidorg on Twitter, and @[email protected] on the Fediverse. You can also contact the founder of F-Droid, Ciaran Gultnieks, directly at: [email protected]
4W has reached out to Gultnieks for comment.
You can join Spinster here: https://spinster.xyz/
Hoffman has now closed a Gitlab issue to undo the removal of Spinster without comment. The proposal to undo the ban appears to have been widely supported by the community.
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