Wednesday, 02 February 2011 13:18

Pesce keynote fallout: Linux Australia members abused


Some members of Linux Australia have received offensive emails following a discussion on the organisation's email list about the censuring of keynote speaker Mark Pesce over the use of sexual images in his presentation to the recent Linux conference.

In a message titled "Reprehensible behaviour" sent this morning, the Linux Australia council said: "There have been some reports of members of our community being abused via off-list email for the opinions they have posted to the linux-aus list.

"On the off-chance that someone thinks this is funny or acceptable behaviour, the council would like to make it extremely clear that it is not.

"Anyone who receives abuse that they believe originated via a Linux Australia discussion is invited to forward copies to either the council at council at or directly to a council member's private email. Your identity will be kept confidential."

When LA president John Ferlito was contacted for comment, he responded: "I'll refer you to the email that the council sent to Linux Australia list for our thoughts on the matter."

He was referring to the message which has been quoted in full above.

"I don't think it is appropriate for the council to go into more details except to say it has occurred and that it is not acceptable behaviour for members of our community," Ferlito added.

Though the conference ended on January 28, there have been numerous discussion on the conference mailing list about the keynote (text, slides) by Pesce, a well-known author, educator and inventor. One thread ran to 80 messages, a second to 37 messages, a third to 21 and a fourth has just begun.

There has also been discussion on the Linux Australia mailing list as mentioned above; Linux kernel developer Jonathan Corbet wrote a comment piece about the incident for his Linux Weekly News website and that has attracted a sizeable number of comments as well.

Pesce was censured by the organisers of the conference after some delegates complained to Shaun Nykvist, the chief organiser. Other complaints were conveyed to Ferlito.

Nykvist informed the delegates about the incident at the conference closing ceremony. Ferlito said the next day that Pesce had apologised to the community.

Pesce issued an apology to those offended by the use of the images, via his Twitter account.

There was one image of a pig indulging in sexual activity with a goose; a second (NSFW) was of two women who were indulging in bondage. A third image showed a man being spanked by a woman, both in gear that is used for BDSM activity. The latter two images did not show any nudity.

In December, the organisers of the conference drafted an anti-harassment policy that said, in part, "Offensive sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue.

"Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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