Ethical Considerations Towards Protestware

Paper by Marc Cheong, Raula Gaikovina Kula, and Christoph Treude: “A key drawback to using a Open Source third-party library is the risk of introducing malicious attacks. In recently times, these threats have taken a new form, when maintainers turn their Open Source libraries into protestware. This is defined as software containing political messages delivered through these libraries, which can either be malicious or benign. Since developers are willing to freely open-up their software to these libraries, much trust and responsibility are placed on the maintainers to ensure that the library does what it promises to do. This paper takes a look into the possible scenarios where developers might consider turning their Open Source Software into protestware, using an ethico-philosophical lens. Using different frameworks commonly used in AI ethics, we explore the different dilemmas that may result in protestware. Additionally, we illustrate how an open-source maintainer’s decision to protest is influenced by different stakeholders (viz., their membership in the OSS community, their personal views, financial motivations, social status, and moral viewpoints), making protestware a multifaceted and intricate matter…(More)”