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

Freenode at this time ranges in between around 75,000 and 90,000 users—that’s a significantly cry from the 240,000 customers fellow IRC community QuakeNet experienced back in 2005, but it is really however fairly a ton of individuals.

Freenode has been the world’s biggest IRC community since 2013, with about 3 periods as many buyers as its closest competitor, IRCnet. Very last week, the huge IRC network was taken over by Korean Crown Prince Andrew Lee—a transfer that the network’s staff has evidently unanimously categorised as a “hostile takeover,” although Lee himself claims these are only “rumors” and “only untrue.”

At initially blush, it is tempting for an outdoors observer—someone who is just not previously common with the record of the network’s ownership and management—to shrug and say “perfectly, who understands.” Lee lays out various hundred phrases of rationalization in a site put up at present highlighted on Freenode’s entrance page—most of which sounds fair.

But the one problem Lee in no way addresses—let by itself answers—is why at minimum 14 individual personnel users would quit en masse, all disagreeing with the story he tells.

A doubtful agreement

In 2017, Christel Dahlskjaer—who was, at the time, head of Freenode staff—created a company, Freenode Ltd., which she immediately sold to Lee. Dahlskjaer and Lee explained to Freenode employees and consumers that the incorporation was only carried out as vital paperwork in order to sponsor a convention and that day-to-working day functions would continue being unchanged.

Contract or no contract, employees and developers of Freenode sustain that it was not in fact possible to offer the network—the personnel is all volunteers, and the infrastructure alone wasn’t owned by Dahlskjaer in the very first put. In accordance to resigning Freenode developer Aaron Jones, nevertheless, “Andrew has far more money than us, and so we cannot battle this.”

Whilst the agreement in concern was signed in 2017, staffers did not commence objecting right up until this 12 months, when operational variations began showing with no their control or consent.

A unilateral determination on advertising and marketing

In February 2021, Dahlskjaer placed the brand for Shells—a Lee-owned corporation giving cloud-dependent digital desktops—prominently on Freenode’s front web site. By alone, this could appear innocuous—FOSS projects take sponsorships and advertising all the time. But staffers, who have been supposedly even now in regulate of the network, weren’t consulted about the arrangement—and they did not approve.

One particular rationale for staffer’s virulent disapproval is Shells CTO Mark Karpelès. Karpelès is the founder of the defunct Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange, which missing approximately 850,000 bitcoin (at present value a staggering $33.4 billion-with-a-B US pounds) to attackers who exploited a significant protection flaw. Karpelès was discovered responsible in a Tokyo courtroom of deliberately tampering with data to address up the exchange’s numerous losses, whilst he was identified innocent of outright embezzlement.

As former staffer Aaron Jones describes in his prolonged letter of resignation—which links to very similar bulletins from other departing higher-profile staffers—this wasn’t the only concern with the new ad. In accordance to Jones, sponsorships are ordinarily only discovered at freenode.net/acknowledgements—making the popular Shells brand in the higher right of Freenode’s entrance page far more of a departure from the norm than it might feel.

Jones goes on to say that Dahlskjaer was possibly unable or unwilling to explain the unexpected new advertisement to staffers, picking to resign instead. (Lee promises that Freenode personnel “harassed” Dahlskjaer into resignation Jones and other departing staffers deny this characterization.) Freenode employees elected Tom Wesley (aka tomaw) to substitute her.

Escalation in April

Beginning in April 2021, Lee’s training of command continued ramping up:

  • Staffers established a blog post outlining alterations in leadership and asserting a alter to freshly developed back-conclusion ircd computer software Solanum. According to Jones, Lee summarily removed the post—and manually edited the website’s developed-in historical past to create the effect that it experienced by no means existed.
  • Afterwards in April, a Freenode examination network—in use to get all set for the infrastructure change to Solanum—was shut down with out discussion. Wesley (tomaw) performed the shutdown and refused to say why Jones and other people imagine Lee was driving the shutdown, used menace of lawful drive to make Wesley comply, and issued related gag orders to OFTC staff.
  • Lee registered the channel #freenode-board without speaking about it with staff—and, in accordance to Jones, with out proper authority (due to the fact only official group contacts are allowed to generate channels in Freenode’s key namespace, and Lee was not an formal Freenode contact).
  • Shane Allen (aka nirvana), an affiliate and employee of Lee’s, bragged about “turning” tomaw, and he attempted to bribe notable user Ariadne with promises of ops privileges, saying “I will make positive you get +o0 in #freenode so you can kick folks. My reward to you pal.”
  • On May possibly 11, Lee commenced issuing notices to team as a team and right to personal Freenode staffers. All the things came from “the board”—an entity which staffers say hardly ever existed, and even now is basically a euphemism for Lee himself.

On May 12, Lee (aka rasengan) posted his model of events—in which he claims lawful possession of Freenode, along with a listing of grievances—in a Github gist. (The gist is significantly saltier than the version of functions Lee posted to Freenode’s public-struggling with weblog a 7 days later.)

Libera Chat

A week after Lee’s proficiently general public announcement of possession and de facto dictatorial procedure of Freenode, the staffers who resigned from Freenode made Libera.chat as a substitute.

Libera Chat is included as a Swedish nonprofit business, owned and operated by volunteer staffers who are voting customers of the firm. It has a tiny, member-elected board—currently consisting of chair, treasurer, assignments and neighborhood rep, engineering rep / vice chair, and functions rep. But most decisions are to be taken by the membership as a full.

The membership also elects two auditors, tasked with auditing the board’s steps on behalf of the membership. A transparency report is to be published annually, detailing bookkeeping and the auditors’ conclusions along with the conventional yearly report from the board by itself.

All present-day Libera Chat boardmembers and auditors are Freenode staffers who resigned in protest of Lee’s new steps and assumption of management.

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