Matt Lee is one of the Net’s leading young activists, but you won’t find him on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or MySpace. The scruffy 27-year-old forsakes these and other proprietary sites as the campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation, the grassroots group fighting to remove restrictions from the computer programs we use. The mission: to empower the gamer generation by letting them freely modify and share software, and have access to the code behind the scenes.
Lee preaches the gospel well, because he grew up with it. The free software movement began when legendary hacker Richard Stallman created and disseminated a free operating system called GNU in 1983. Lee, an autodidactic hacker from Manchester, England, heard a calling in Stallman’s message. The once underground online world was exploding mainstream, and with more start-ups dominating the way we communicate and interact, the stakes were on the rise.
After striking up a friendship with Stallman via email, Lee moved to the U.S. to runt the Foundation’s website and take on perhaps its most important task: educating a new generation of computer users who blindly embrace every new online fad. When he’s not organizing protests, Lee travels the world speaking on the new wave of free software alternatives – from social networks to online games.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.