The Impact of World Politics on Software Ecosystems

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2023-03-07
Keywords: Politics, Professional Ethics

The best summary of this paper comes from the paper itself:

The purpose of this article is to point the software engineering research community to open questions regarding how researchers can investigate, address, and regulate such kinds of protestware. In light of the war in Ukraine, we present three motivating scenarios where world politics has had impact on software ecosystems, highlighting the side affects, and then present an agenda on how to dissect and respond to such behaviour during software engineering practices.

The three scenarios discussed are malignant protestware that destroys data or otherwise does harm, benign protestware that raises awareness without damaging anything, and developer sanctions such as refusing to do business with an aggressor such as Russia or suspending accounts belonging to its citizens. The authors don't reach any conclusions, but with so much critical infrastructure now depending on open source software, it's long past time we started asking ourselves what we are and aren't willing to do.

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Raula Gaikovina Kula and Christoph Treude. In war and peace: the impact of world politics on software ecosystems. 2022. arXiv:2208.01393.

Reliance on third-party libraries is now commonplace in contemporary software engineering. Being open source in nature, these libraries should advocate for a world where the freedoms and opportunities of open source software can be enjoyed by all. Yet, there is a growing concern related to maintainers using their influence to make political stances (i.e., referred to as protestware). In this paper, we reflect on the impact of world politics on software ecosystems, especially in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. We show three cases where world politics has had an impact on a software ecosystem, and how these incidents may result in either benign or malignant consequences. We further point to specific opportunities for research, and conclude with a research agenda with ten research questions to guide future research directions.