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FSFE UK calls for removal of Government's software advertisements

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This weekend Free Software activists will find and report web advertising for proprietary software that is being funded by the British Government. Activists will meet on Saturday at Manchester's 'MadLab' Hackerspace to hunt for new adverts and contact government departments requesting that they be removed.

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is hosting a UK focused event in Manchester as part of its PDF Readers Campaign, which has called upon Europeans to seek out advertisements for proprietary PDF readers on their government's websites in an effort to get them removed. PDF readers are computer programs which allow Portable Document Format (PDF) files to be read by the user. PDF is an Open Standard, and although Free Software PDF readers exist for all major operating systems, government publications typically advertise only one vendor's proprietary reader.

"Every time that state websites link to non-free applications and encourage visitors to use them, they needlessly ask citizens to throw away their freedom", says Karsten Gerloff, President of FSFE.

The Campaign, originally launched late last year, has already resulted in more than 2,000 European institutions being contacted and 421 adverts being removed. In Britain however there remains a lot of potential, with only 41 institutions reported so far. In Germany, some 10% of the over 550 institutions contacted in the course of the campaign have already removed the adverts.

The campaign is targeting advertising which gives an unfair advantage to whichever proprietary product is recommend, and which are often accompanied by inaccurate statements presenting the application as the only available option.

FSFE's UK Coordinator Sam Tuke comments: "Free Software advocates in other parts of Europe have been very successful in making the information about PDF files more accurate on tax-funded websites. Currently however Britain is one of Europe's worst offenders, with nearly all contacted institutions having ignored our requests, and many more adverts remaining unreported."