Brendan Eich, the newly appointed CEO of Mozilla (makers of the Firefox web browser and the new mobile phone OS, FirefoxOS), gave $1,000 to support California's Proposition 8 (the anti-gay marriage proposition) back in 2008.
Some folks are upset and are now boycotting Firefox (and other Mozilla products) in protest of his appointment. Back in 2012, Eich blogged about this topic (as there was a little controversy about it back then as well) with his viewpoint – essentially that he's a nice guy and he keeps politics out of his work. Without knowing Brendan personally, I have no reason to not believe that.
I'm not really sure how I feel about this.
On one hand, I disagree with Brendan's stance on that particular topic.
On the other hand, the Open Source world is incredibly diverse. If we boycotted the software of any organization whose leadership had some disagreeable views...I don't think we'd get to use any software at all.
An extreme stance, to be sure - one which, I am pretty confident, nearly every man, woman, and child on the planet will disagree with. But does that singular stance, as controversial and disagreeable as it may be, mean that we should boycott every product with which Richard is involved? Because of this stance, should we completely boycott the GPL and emacs? No. That'd be silly.
But what if I worked for Mozilla? And what if I were a gay man? How would I then feel about having a CEO who was opposed to me being able to get married? Obviously, this becomes a pretty important issue, both in terms of civil rights and the ability to feel safe and supported in the workplace.
I suppose the reality is that Brendan's appointment to CEO may have been a mistake in this regard. That's not to say Brendan is a bad guy, nor that he doesn't have the chops to be a great CEO. But having a CEO who is on the record as financially supporting efforts to restrict the civil rights of his own employees (or potential future employees)...that just doesn't build a friendly, supportive work environment.
And, realistically, a boycott of Firefox is a potentially effective way to send that message.
But perhaps it makes sense to talk with Mozilla (and its new CEO) first. This is Mozilla we're talking about here: an Open Source-loving, community-friendly organization. And this topic is, obviously, on their minds, as they have released a "Statement on Diversity" immediately after appointing their new CEO.
Opening a dialogue with Mozilla and its executives should be the first action, methinks. Dialogue at least has the potential to enlighten the company to the civil rights issue at hand, whereas a boycott is likely to elicit a phony apology meant to address the company's business concerns.
In this issue, a complete boycott seems premature to me, at least until we know whether Mozilla or Eich will stand by his previous actions.
If a leader of an organization has a stance you strongly disagree with - one which could potentially cause hardship in your personal or work life - how do you respond? Boycott? Complain? Friendly chat? Fisticuffs?
Maybe you do that thing where you take off a white glove and slap someone on the cheek. Do people still do that ever? Man. I hope so.