This week the developer of the popular note-taking software Notepad ++ has released a new version update. Nothing seemed particularly strange about it, except perhaps the name: Notepad ++ v7.8.1 is the "Free Uyghur" edition.
In a blog post announcing the updated version, developer Don Ho writes about the fate of the Uighur people, an ethnic minority in China being persecuted by the authoritarian government of the country. China has internment camps used to detain Uighur people in the Xinjiang region of the country.
"The fact that you have just learned such information is already an action in itself," Ho wrote in the announcement. "But you can involve more people to focus on this issue and hopefully put extra pressure on the Chinese government to stop their oppressive actions and crimes against the Uyghur people."
Although the protest may have been harmless enough, it didn't go online that way. Since the announcement, the GitHub page has problems with the software has been bombarded with spam, many of them in the Chinese language.
"Stop sending meaningless political issues, it just makes you an idiot," reads a comment. Another just read"Bye! Uninstall." There is a litany of curses and they ask, "What do you know about China?" Others have come in to criticize the Chinese government.
For software such as Notepad ++, the GitHub page is an important source and not having it can be a headache for some users. Earlier versions of the software have been mentioned in the past in political protest, and it was even referred to Tiananmen Square in 1989. Ho wrote in the announcement that he anticipated possible pushback and said "talking about politics is exactly what software and commercial companies generally try to avoid", but decided to take the step.
"The problem is," Ho writes in the announcement of the Free Uyghur edition, "if we don't deal with politics, politics will deal with us."