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<title>Technological Neutrality and Free Software
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Technological Neutrality and Free Software</h2>


<address class="byline">by <a href="http://www.stallman.org/">Richard Stallman</a></p> href="https://www.stallman.org/">Richard

<p>Proprietary developers arguing against laws to move towards free
software often claim this violates the principle of
“technological neutrality”. neutrality.”  The conclusion is wrong, but
where is the error?</p>

<p>Technological neutrality is the principle that the state should not
impose preferences for or against specific kinds of technology.  For
example, there should not be a rule that specifies whether state
agencies should use solid state memory or magnetic disks, or whether
they should use GNU/Linux or BSD.  Rather, the agency should let
bidders propose any acceptable technology as part of their solutions,
and choose the best/cheapest offer by the usual rules.</p>

<p>The principle of technological neutrality is valid, but it has
limits.  Some kinds of technology are harmful; they may pollute air or
water, encourage antibiotic resistance, abuse their users, abuse the
workers that make them, or cause massive unemployment.  These should
be taxed, regulated, discouraged, or even banned.</p>

<p>The principle of technological neutrality applies only to purely
technical decisions.  It is not “ethical neutrality” or
“social neutrality”; it does not apply to decisions about
ethical and social issues—such as the choice between free
software and proprietary software.</p>

<p>For instance, when the state adopts a policy of migrating to free
software in order to restore the computing sovereignty of the country
and lead the people towards freedom and cooperation, this isn't a
technical preference.  This is an ethical, social and political
policy, not a technological policy.  The state is not supposed to be
neutral about maintaining the people's freedom or encouraging
cooperation.  It is not supposed to be neutral about maintaining or
recovering its sovereignty.</p>

<p>It is the state's duty to insist that the software in its public
agencies respect the computing sovereignty of the country, and that
the software taught in its schools educate its students in freedom and
cooperation.  The state must insist on free software, exclusively, in
<a href="/philosophy/government-free-software.html">public
agencies</a> and in <a href="/education/edu-schools.html">
education</a>.  The state has the responsibility to maintain control
of its computing, so it must not surrender that control to <a
href="/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-serve.html">Service as
a Software Substitute</a>.  In addition, the <a
href="/philosophy/surveillance-vs-democracy.html">state must not
reveal to companies the personal data</a> that it maintains about

<p>When no ethical imperatives apply to a certain technical decision,
it can be left to the domain of technological neutrality.</p>

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<p>Copyright © 2014 2014, 2021 Free Software Foundation, Inc.</p>

<p>This page is licensed under a <a rel="license"
Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License</a>.</p>

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<p class="unprintable">Updated:
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$Date: 2021/11/30 11:07:01 $
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