[Foundation-l] CIA/NSA development of mediawiki (was: Wikia leasing office space to WMF)

Aryeh Gregor Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com
Sun Jan 25 03:11:55 UTC 2009

This is a fairly silly topic, but I'll say two things:

1) If the CIA or NSA or whoever contributed source code, we would
review them like any other patches.  Period.  If they're committing
illegal activities or whatever, that's something for the courts to
rule on, and is no business of ours.  Our goal (of MediaWiki
developers) is to make good software, nothing else.  Someone working
for Microsoft was trying to get commit access to work on MSSQL a while
back, too, and we weren't going to hold it against him.  As for adding
subtle "tell the NSA about Wikipedians' browsing habits" stuff, I very
much believe that anyone who would review the patches would be
competent enough to spot deliberately malicious or obfuscated source
code before committing it.

2) If the CIA or NSA were hypothetically distributing modified
MediaWiki binaries to third parties (PHP compilers do exist), that
would be illegal, since MediaWiki is only licensed under the GPL, and
so they would have no legal right to distribute binaries without full
accompanying source code.  I'm sure they would immediately stop once
this was pointed out to them, and either stop distributing the stuff
outside their own organizations or provide the source code.  Of course
if you believe that they're illegally infringing everyone's rights
left and right with no oversight, you might think they wouldn't stop
and we would all disappear in the middle of the night if we tried to
formally complain.  I guess we'll see if it happens.

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