Electronic Frontier Foundation ousts co-founder John Gilmore from its board

He's free of governance duties now, but still an emeritus member


Updated Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) co-founder John Gilmore has been removed from any active role on the digital rights organisation's board but will continue to serve as emeritus member.

"Since he helped found EFF 31 years ago, John Gilmore has provided leadership and guidance on many of the most important digital rights issues we advocate for today," wrote EFF executive director Cindy Cohn.

If your instincts tell you that's the kind of prose that presages a "but", your instincts were correct.

"But in recent years, we have not seen eye-to-eye on how to best communicate and work together, and we have been unable to agree on a way forward with Gilmore in a governance role. That is why the EFF Board of Directors has recently made the difficult decision to vote to remove Gilmore from the Board."

The EFF announcement adds that the board is "deeply grateful for the many years Gilmore gave to EFF as a leader and advocate, and … has elected him to the role of Board Member Emeritus moving forward".

Cohn's post doesn't outline the nature or particulars of the dispute that led to Gilmore's departure. The EFF appears not to publish board minutes, nor to have posted its constitution or charter to its site (but does advocate for transparency), making it hard to ascertain why Gilmore was removed or the powers that made it possible to do so.

The EFF's announcement about Gilmore's change of status was published on Friday. The Register has requested further information about the reasons for his changed status.

The statement includes a quote from the man himself.

"I am so proud of the impact that EFF has had in retaining and expanding individual rights and freedoms as the world has adapted to major technological changes," Gilmore is quoted as saying. "My departure will leave a strong board and an even stronger staff who care deeply about these issues."

In recent years, we have not seen eye-to-eye on how to best communicate and work together

Gilmore co-founded the EFF in 1990 – just one standout on a CV that includes being hired as employee number five at Sun Microsystems, helping to disprove the security of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), and creating Usenet's "alt." newsgroups. He's widely credited as the source of the famous aphorism "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

Gilmore's EFF profile states "He's trying to get people to think more about the society they are building."

As an emeritus board member, he'll have the chance to keep doing that – but without a vote. ®

Updated to add at 2300 UTC, October 25

The EFF's Cindy Cohn just told us:

The post on our website speaks for itself, and we don’t have much to add. This is essentially a personnel matter, so we will be keeping the details confidential. While it’s unfortunate that we reached a point where a governance role was no longer appropriate, we are pleased that John is staying in an emeritus role. John’s work and guidance from EFF’s founding helped make us who we are today and we are eternally grateful that he saw the need to have a digital rights organization, and indeed a digital rights movement, to ensure that our civil liberties remain protected as technology changes.


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