As a company, and a non-profit, Mozilla is in favor of marriage equality. The Mozilla Participation Policy states that Mozilla “welcomes and encourages participation by everyone” and welcomes “contributions from everyone … including, but not limited to people of varied … gender, gender-identity,… sexual orientation, … and religious views.” When people support views contrary to those of Mozilla, their “support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Mozilla activities.” and their “support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities should not be expressed in Mozilla spaces.”4 If that wasn’t clear enough, Mozilla released a statement on March 29th affirming that “Mozilla supports equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples.”
Furthermore, as CEO, Eich doesn’t have the power to change the policies that Mozilla currently has. As Christie Koehler, a queer female employe of Mozilla said, “I trust the oversight Mozilla has in place in the form of our chairperson, Mitchell Baker, and our board of directors.” Furthermore, Eich is a co-founder of Mozilla, and has served as a chairperson and CTO for years, yet Mozilla’s policies of inclusiveness are among the best offered by any company. This shows that Eich is able to keep his personal views out of Mozilla, and due to the differing position of the vast majority of all the other employees at Mozilla (Eich was the only Mozilla employee to donate in favor of Prop 8 while many other employees donated to oppose prop 8), Eich would never be able to turn Mozilla into a company against equal rights and inclusiveness. The Participation Policy by which he too is bound, explicitly forbids it.
If Mozilla has committed one “crime” it is that of not advocated equal rights sufficiently, of not having equal rights being one of it’s guiding principles. That is because Mozilla’s mission is to promote a free and open internet, that “Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on the Internet” and that “”Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource”5. Eich wrote in 2012 “I do not insist that anyone agree with me on a great many things, including political issues, and I refrain from putting my personal beliefs in others’ way in all matters Mozilla, JS, and Web.” As Mitchell Baker wrote in 2012 “”we focus Mozilla on our shared consensus regarding the Mozilla mission and manifesto.”6 “Mozilla’s mission and manifesto are explicitly apolitical. We don’t take sides on any political issues in any country, except to stand up for the open web.”7
I do not believe that Brendan Eich should have been named CEO of Mozilla. Not because I am against his appointment, I believe that he will do an excellent job, and he has demonstrated that he doesn’t let his personal views affect the views and policies of Mozilla. I think he will make an excellent Chief Executive officer. However, people falsely consider as equivalent to the views of the CEO and the views of the company, even in cases such as this were that is completely false. I believe that the Mozilla board severely mis-estimated the public backlash to Eich’s appointment, and then dealt with the media fallout very poorly.
What led me to write this essay was people deciding to boycott Firefox as a result of Eich being CEO. Mozilla is a company which is unique in many aspects, chief among which are their advocacy aspect, seeking to further ideals of which most agree are important – an Open Internet.it is also a company which heavily promote inclusiveness within itself, with it’s policies, ad culture. Boycotting Firefox leads to this company which encourages equality to be able to do less good. “You may wish to boycott Mozilla products as a matter of principle, and I can’t argue with that,”8 but “switching from Firefox to Chrome will not change Brendan or anybody else’s views on LGBT rights, and will actively harm the open web.” That is why people should not boycott Firefox because Eich is against equality.
Update: Brendan Eich has now stepped down as CEO of Mozilla. He stepped down, he wasn’t fired, as Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla said “He struggled to connect and empathize with people who both respect him and felt hurt. He also got beat up… Ultimately, I think Brendan found it impossible to lead under these circumstances. It was his choice to step down. And, frankly, I don’t blame him. I would have done the same.”9 This essay is still relevant because it was about the broader issue, about whether the personal views of a CEO should affect the public views of the company when the two weren’t aligned on issues which aren’t the focus of the company.
4: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/governance/policies/participation/ , which was last updated January 7th, 2013 – well before Eich was named CEO.
7: http://valianttry.us/caught-between-two-movements/ , Andrew Wood