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The Freenode resignation FAQ, or: "what the fuck is going on?"

IMPORTANT NOTE:

It's come to my attention that some people have been spamming issue trackers with a link to this gist. While it's a good idea to inform people of the situation in principle, please do not do this. By all means spread the word in the communities that you are a part of, after verifying that they are not aware yet, but unsolicited spam is not helpful. It will just frustrate people.

Update 3 (May 24, 2021)

A number of things have happened since the last update.

  • Andrew broke Freenode policies to steal a channel
  • ... and then unilaterally changed the Freenode policies afterwards to try and retroactively justify it - later adding a note claiming it's a draft, but the PR has already been merged.
  • That change also removed the rule against hateful speech on the network, at the same time.
  • The channel #freenode-policy-feedback was indicated as the venue for discussion and feedback around the policy changes. After a number of inconvenient (and as of yet unanswered) questions from various users, Andrew sent the people in #freenode to the channel, quickly turning it into an argumentative mess full of trolling, and drowning the (still unanswered) questions.

Andrew was repeatedly asked in the "policy discussion channel" whether slurs, racism and transphobia are now permitted on Freenode. No answer has been forthcoming. This is the clearest answer that has been provided at the time of writing:

[21:18:02 CEST] <joepie91> rasengan: If you need an example: Will racial slurs be tolerated within network policy? What about racism in general, or transphobia?
[21:22:24 CEST] <sellow> rasengan: Is racism, for example referring to groups of people using a derogatory term, now permitted under the network policy?
[21:22:57 CEST] <rasengan> sellow: This is a great question that absolutely requires community feedback. I can't answer to it because the former freenode staff used derogatory terms so its still unclear to me, I'm still trying to understand the policy. Again, community feedback is appreciated.
[21:23:06 CEST] <rasengan> Please stop asking questions as it relates to this topic as that is the answer.
[21:23:18 CEST] <rasengan> (Community feedback is required)
[21:24:14 CEST] <joepie91> rasengan: am I understanding correctly that you are leaving "whether slurs, racism and transphobia are allowed on Freenode" to "community feedback"?
[21:26:23 CEST] <rasengan> joepie91/ave_: I'm not really, again, even clear how that's defined and handled as per current standing freenode policy, draft or not, given the previous staff engagement in said activity. We're asking for community feedback, as 'rules' that the community must follow should be determined with the community, not without.

Chatter from other users has been snipped from the above excerpt for readability. As usual, the full logs with full context are available for your perusal.

Not a clear answer by any stretch of the imagination, but I think everybody knows what such a non-answer really means when someone has been actively avoiding the question for over an hour.

After someone asked what the purpose of the channel was since no questions seemed to get answered, and I pointed out that it seemed like a sinkhole for criticism, both I and the question asker(!) were banned by Andrew.

Update 2

Freenode staff have stepped down. The network that runs at freenode.org/net/com should now be assumed to be under control of a malicious party. Andrew Lee will likely gain control over the NickServ database at some point.

I recommend that you move to libera.chat as soon as possible, as the former Freenode staff has left the network that exists on the Freenode domains, and so they can no longer guarantee the safety of your information or community there. Basically, libera.chat is the continuation of Freenode.

(A special note for marginalized communities: I won't go into the details further in this gist, but I personally believe that Freenode will not be a safe place for you going forward.)

Update 1

Since this gist was originally written, things have taken a turn for the worse, and two Freenode staffers have stepped down. Their resignation letters describe the situation in quite a bit of detail:

What it appears to come down to, is that Andrew Lee is attempting to essentially take over the network by drowning staff in lawyers.

It also turns out that my understanding of Andrew being "locked out" from the domain may have been wrong, and in fact they only recently gained access that they previously didn't have. This is all still a bit unclear, though.

Original post below.

Disclaimer

Hi! I wrote this FAQ to give people a bit more insight into what's going on with Freenode, Andrew Lee, and the leaked resignation letters.

I want to be very clear about this: I am not a Freenode staffer, and this document only contains information from public channels. There are no scoops here, and while I believe that my understanding of the situation is accurate, it's always possible that it's not. Much of this information is correlated from statements made and sources provided by other people.

I have not sought permission from Freenode staff to write this FAQ, nor have I told them that I would do so. They've not verified any of the information in here, nor have I asked them to. In short: they are not involved in this FAQ whatsoever.

Also, my personal view on the situation is that Andrew Lee is decidedly in the wrong here, and has no legitimate claim to Freenode (the IRC network and voluntary association). I believe that his intentions are malicious, and that he should under no circumstances gain control over the network, nor access to its user data. Just so that you know where I'm coming from.

Now, with that out of the way...

OK, so what's going on?

You're probably here because you've read a resignation letter from a Freenode staffer, indicating that they are stepping down. You might've asked around about the reasons, and heard that actually, they haven't stepped down, it was just a leaked draft. WTF?

So, let's start: Andrew Lee is, indirectly, the owner of a company named "Freenode Limited". Despite what the name implies, this company actually has nothing to do with the operation of the Freenode IRC network, really; it was apparently established to handle Freenode Live finances. However, through a number of vague historical events, the company also gained control over the Freenode domain names.

Importantly, this company has absolutely no operational involvement. It does not own any servers, it does not employ any of the staff. It does not sponsor any infrastructure. All the staff are unpaid volunteers, and all the servers are sponsored by third parties - on a rolling basis. No contracts exist between either Freenode Limited and the staff, or between Freenode Limited and the sponsors. Literally the only piece of infrastructure that Freenode Limited (claims to) own, are the domain names. No money flows from Freenode Limited to the operational side of the network.

Now, it seems that Andrew Lee - despite zero involvement in the day-to-day operations of Freenode - has decided that ownership of the domains entitles him to ownership of Freenode as a network and community, and intended to give his own people administrative access to the network, without involving the staff team in this decision.

The details are vague at this point, but it's safe to say that the staff disagreed - Andrew was apparently locked out of the domains, and the staff team collectively drafted resignation letters, to be published in the event that Andrew would misuse his domain ownership to do a hostile takeover of the network.

Crucially, stepping down and moving to another network would be a last resort, and staff had no intention of stepping down unless there was no other option. Through an error, one of these letters - linking to the others - was found by Andrew Lee and others, before it was intended to be published.

Andrew has not yet regained access to the domains. At the time of writing, none of the staff have made the decision to step down. It is, however, still very much up in the air.

Freenode Limited has failed to file its company filings in time, and is scheduled to be struck from the company register. Andrew appears to be under the strange impression that it is the volunteer staff's responsibility to do the filings, despite them having no contract nor affiliation with the company whatsoever, and receiving no payment. I am unaware of the details, but some sort of legal threats are also flying around.

If you have some free time, these logs contain a lot of information about the situation. In those logs, rasengan is Andrew Lee. There's also these logs preceding them, from the main #freenode channel - they provide a bit more insight into the start of the incident.

What does this mean for my channel or community on Freenode?

Freenode staff have stepped down. The network that runs at freenode.org/net/com should be assumed to be under control of a malicious party. I'd recommend moving your community to libera.chat as soon as possible.

Right now: nothing. Andrew does not currently have control over the domain, nor do he or any of his associates have access to any of the Freenode infrastructure. The infrastructure is, at the time of writing, fully controlled by the staff team that you've come to know and maybe even love.

This may change. If Andrew were to regain domain access and attempt a hostile takeover of the network through that access, the Freenode staff will in all likelihood step down. Since the relations of server sponsors are with the staff team, not with Andrew Lee, it is very likely that the entire network infrastructure will come along with wherever the staff decides to go.

In other words: in this event, Freenode as a network will cease to exist. The domain name will point at either nothing, or at completely different infrastructure run by completely different people (on behalf of Andrew Lee), which shares nothing with the Freenode of old other than the name. The old infrastructure run by the staff team may reappear under a new name, or be decommissioned.

However, Andrew has not exactly made himself popular with the community (see the logs linked above). He's also made it quite clear that his intentions are not to act in the best interest of the community, and he has failed to answer many crucial questions, including questions about the dubious finances of Freenode Limited. It's possible that he realizes that he has nothing to win here, and decides to hand over the domains to the current staff. In this case, nothing will change at all.

Realistically, the best approach for you as a community leader right now is to remain calm, and closely watch for updates from the staff. If action is required to eg. move your community, you will likely be made aware of this. It's probably a good idea to start thinking about contingency plans for the worst-case scenario, though.

@cmpunches
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cmpunches commented Jul 10, 2021

@germandiagogomez Even completely ignoring his backstory, his actions speak for themselves. Plenty of channels were still on the fence until he used a bot to hijack channels that merely mentioned Libera in topic, most of what remained died when they changed server software but did not migrate any of the existing user or channel registrations. Now as @apocalyptech has highlighted, the latest bullshit is buying up a domain to try to trick people who are trying to connect to libera.chat to accidently connect to freenode instead.

The most important part of an IRC network is that it is operated in a trustworthy and technically competent manner, and Lee has displayed absolutely nothing of the sort. This is why people moved away, mostly to Libera since it is run by the former freenode operators and pretty much a continuation of old freenode under a new name (while the new freenode is now a completely new irc network with no relation to the old one except in name).

Well, except it did help them market a new network a great deal. There was ample motivation and benefit.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the email receipts associated with this thread, I am being heavily censored by @joepie91 to the point that only one side of the story is getting out. I think his excuse is something about trolling. It's trolling to disagree? I don't know, maybe consider having someone with more credibility be your pointman for the truth.

@wodencafe
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wodencafe commented Jul 10, 2021

Well, except it did help them market a new network a great deal. There was ample motivation and benefit.

top10_2021u

@cmpunches
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cmpunches commented Jul 10, 2021

Well, except it did help them market a new network a great deal. There was ample motivation and benefit.

top10_2021u

Thank you for demonstrating the benefit.

@wodencafe
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wodencafe commented Jul 10, 2021

Thank you for demonstrating the benefit.

The benefit of what, to who? There are no winners here.

@mvduin
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mvduin commented Jul 10, 2021

Well, except it did help them market a new network a great deal. There was ample motivation and benefit.

No it didn't, people do not move their channel based on spam. They moved their channel because of Lee's actions, and many moved to libera because they knew it was run by the same people who ran freenode all these years. If people genuinely believed that the spam was associated with Libera it would deter channels from moving there.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the email receipts associated with this thread, I am being heavily censored by @joepie91

I think he made the right call and I subsequently removed my own post since I was feeding the troll. I'm doing it again because I have this naive faith in people and like to think they're merely misguided rather than actively trolling. Removing the follow-ups to your post (including this one) would probably be the right thing to do, especially since:

Thank you for demonstrating the benefit.

It is plainly obvious that @wodencafe misread you and thought you were talking about freenode rather than Libera. The way your reaction tries to exploit that mistake (even though the graph doesn't "demonstrate" anything in this argument) rather than addressing it does seem to confirm you're just actively trolling.

@mk-pmb
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mk-pmb commented Jul 10, 2021

Usually I'm and advocate for fair trial, but in this case I've been personally offended by direct LeeNode actions, so I consider any attempt to help them save face as a waste of effort.

@CarlFK
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CarlFK commented Jul 10, 2021

Please only post facts.

thank you CJ Kucera for

they've gotten ahold of the libera.net domain. irc.libera.net is now a CNAME to chat.freenode.net,

The rest of this is directed at people posting commentary. Most people reading this thread can think for themselves and do not care what any one else in this thread thinks.

and now a repeat of my previous request:

Maybe my post here will dampen the fire. maybe not, but here I go.

Anyone reading this either wants entertainment, or is looking for information to make their own informed decision.

I do not have any new information. I could post my plans, and then you would know what 1 of the thousands of freenode users is doing, which isn't really helpful.

Back to you the happy or upset reader. If you don't think there are enough facts to make a decision (if there were then it wouldn't be controversial) if that, then : You get to chose who you trust.

faith: 
noun
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
(more)

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/faith

Telling someone they are trusting the wrong person is telling them they have faith in the wrong thing, it probably won't go well.

If someone has new information, great.

Personal commentary trying to change peoples choice of who to trust, I think we have just enough of that.

After all of this, it's my hunch that few if any minds were changed. People on all sides of the fight continued to do whatever it is they do. People who didn't eat meat continued to not eat it. People with bacon fetishes continued to wax poetic over pork belly. People who hate killing spiders continued to not kill spiders.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/480/transcript

@cmpunches
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cmpunches commented Jul 10, 2021

they've gotten ahold of the libera.net domain. irc.libera.net is now a CNAME to chat.freenode.net,

At the same time, I am also seeing that irc.freenode.chat has been registered and is going to a rogue network claiming to be freenode and opered by some familiar nicknames:

https://www.silogroup.org/Screenshot_2021-07-10_13-17-13.png

@mk-pmb
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mk-pmb commented Jul 10, 2021

Thanks for the report. However, the wording can probably be optimized. In its current form it sounds like you're trying to conclude an imposter's identity from imposter-chosen names.

@kurahaupo
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kurahaupo commented Jul 19, 2021

Those readers who've taken the time to read this rather long comments section may have noted my earlier attempts to reduce polarisation, but there's been one step, one choice, that finally obliterates any sense that I should try to "see rasegan's point of view".

All the sniping, all the accusations and counter-accusations, even the appointment of staff who had previously been banned from freenode; those all pale against one action: the dropping of all usernames and channel registrations and then trying to spin that as being for our benefit.

That action had no valid technical, security, or commercial basis.

Even if there were an urgent need to change to a new server implementation, it would have been less work to make a half-arsed attempt to transfer users and channels, than to transfer none and leave the users (and new staff) scrambling to clean up the mess.

But instead it was touted as a clean slate. Don't insult our intelligence rasegan, either you screwed up, or it was intended as a snub to the ex-staff - and snubbed us as well. Either way, it's clear that you hold in contempt anyone who cared about the social structure of the old freenode, so why should we "stay" where we're not welcome?

@mvduin
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mvduin commented Jul 19, 2021

@kurahaupo He basically discarded the existing freenode network and reused its name for his irc.com network which has always used InspIRCd (he also sponsored some work on it). irc.irc.com is now a CNAME for chat.freenode.net.

@rr-
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rr- commented Aug 6, 2021

Genuine question: who are the users that still log in to that network? It's become such a mess that I would be really surprised if the new owners had -any- users.

@mvduin
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mvduin commented Aug 6, 2021

I wonder how many users they still have... netsplit.de no longer provides stats, amusingly saying

From July 2021 no more connections to freenode could be established. The network was accordingly classified as historic.

Though what has actually happened is that freenode now requires registration to be able to connect at all:

-!- ERROR Closing link: [*** You must use TLS/SSL and authenticate via SASL to connect to freenode please visit https://irc.com/login/sso in order to create an account. SASL Configuration: https://freenode.net/kb/answer/sasl - Webchat: https://webchat.freenode.net/]

@yakipey
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yakipey commented Nov 20, 2021

Woow!!..

@wodencafe
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wodencafe commented Nov 20, 2021

The Freenode blog hasn't been updated since August. I suspect the Crown Prince of Bitcoin Bros has become bored with the once-shiny toy he bought, now that he has ruined it.

@yakipey
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yakipey commented Nov 21, 2021

@wodencafe x'D ahahah!! ta wena esa.. jajaja Principe Heredero Bt

@Lagg
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Lagg commented Feb 17, 2022

Just wanted to note for posterity: Libera is freenode for all practical intents and purposes. Been going great for my projects and everyone else far as I can tell. They even still do cloaks. I asked for a few.

If there's anything practical to take away from the lessons established by people like Lee and their personality - such as it is - it's that you should never facilitate mass hysteria and the shysters that squeeze in through the cracks formed by it looking to sprinkle around capital gained from their last successful-by-luck-and-volume low-quality scam. Free, practical and rational thought is abhorrent to the shyster. This result is reproducible.

Remember that people like Lee don't fundamentally change be they fresh out of womb or his age and beyond. They're the ones that scoop pieces of your sand castle over to their side of the box and claim they own it, for no other reason than because you didn't do anything to stop them. They will push that line until you backhand them. Literally or otherwise.

Edit: End of year summary for 2021 with some stats

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