Free software advocates have criticized what they call the British government's promotion of proprietary software.

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) says that many UK government institutions regularly promote Adobe's proprietary PDF reader on their websites to the exclusion of all other software.

PDF readers are programs that allow portable document format (PDF) files to be read by the user. The PDF file format, an open standard, was originally developed by Adobe, and is recognized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an international standard. However FSFE points out that although free software PDF readers exist, government websites typically only advertise Adobe.

Therefore this weekend, activists will meet in Manchester, England, to hunt down instances of such advertising and will contact government departments requesting that they be removed.

"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," said Karsten Gerloff, president of FSFE.

FSFE claims that such promotion by governments also gives an unfair advantage to whichever proprietary product is recommended, and often misleads citizens into thinking it is the only available option.

"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," said FSFE UK coordinator Sam Tuke.

Last November the organization ran a similar campaign targeted at European Union institutions. It says that as a result, 172 public institutions removed such advertisements. The sites included the main EU portal europa.eu and the European Patent Office as well as national ministries, parliaments and law enforcement agencies.