Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote:
they're doing the best that they believe they can do, but they _have_
been told.  see joey hess's very public description of the Debian
Charter as a "toxic document".

I've seen where Hess makes this statement but I haven't seen anything written by Hess clearly explaining why the Debian Constitution is "toxic".

Where would I find something written by Hess clearly explaining why the Debian Constitution is "toxic"?

 i've spoken to the FSF about this: from what i gather, the changes
required are actually very very simple: all they have to do is add in
a simple popup message whenever someone clicks the "nonfree" section,
issuing a warning to the end-user that the consequences of their
actions are leading them into unethical territory.

 ... how simple would that be to add?

It's entirely possible something has changed and I am not aware of relevant updates on this (I don't doubt you're in touch with them far more than I am). Please do reply to the list with updates to this situation.

But according to published documents I point to below, a popup might be quite simple to add but insufficient to allow Debian GNU/Linux to appear on the list of FSF Free System Distributions. I'll explain why I believe this to be true.

In we find the following objection, "Debian also provides a repository of nonfree software. According to the project, this software is "not part of the Debian system," but the repository is hosted on many of the project's main servers, and people can readily find these nonfree packages by browsing Debian's online package database and its wiki".

John Sullivan went into more detail on the FSF's objection at Debconf2015:

So, in Debian's case, the lack of endorsement from us is primarily
because of the relationship between official Debian and unofficial
Debian -- the 'non-free' and 'contrib' repositories. And that
relationship to us seems too close for our comfort. There are spots in
the Debian infrastructure where those sections even though technically
separate are integrated very closely with main. So, for example, in
package searching, in 'recommends' and 'suggests' fields within packages
that are displayed to users. So even though, in Debian, we have an idea
that these are separate that's not always as clear to users on the
outside and they can end up being sometimes inadvertently or sometimes
just led to install nonfree components on top of the official

Source: (12m18s)

I believe the FSF is right to point out Debian's cognitive dissonance. Debian gets to:

- host repos containing nonfree software,
- include UI with pointers to said repos in the installed repo list,
- list packages from the nonfree repos as alternatives to free software packages,
- and also claim that these repos are somehow "not part of the Debian system"?

I too believe that Debian is hosting nonfree software and integrating nonfree software with free software and this is indistinguishable from what other distros not listed do (such as Ubuntu's GNU/Linux).

If Debian wanted the FSF's approval Debian could remove the nonfree and contrib repos from Debian entirely, and remove mentions of packages from these repos from the free packages. Any packages one installs from Debian's repos post-installation would have the same restrictions too (thus addressing what Sullivan mentioned immediately after the above quote).

It was good of Debian to move the nonfree blobs to the nonfree and/or contrib repos in Debian 6.0 ("squeeze") in February 2011 but the OS installer makes the same kinds of recommendations the FSF objects to. I understand the consequences for users looking to most conveniently install Debian GNU/Linux plus whatever nonfree software to let the OS run on their hardware. But I don't see a popup fixing this. I see this as another convenience vs. software freedom tradeoff (wherein security is certainly on the side of software freedom too).

Repo redirects to sets of packages that only mention free software packages with no references to nonfree software could work but that still involves providing work for thousands of packages, as you say.

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