I’m a huge fan of Mozilla and think their work translates directly into more human rights and equality. So like many other people, I find it pretty disturbing that their new CEO, Brendan Eich, donated US$1000 in support of banning same sex marriage. True, this is scrutiny beyond which most organizations’ leaders would receive, and Mozilla in deed seems to have excellent support for LGBT employees, endorsed by Eich, and works to make all welcome in the Mozilla community. But I think Evan Prodromou put it well:
If you lead an organization dedicated to human rights, you need to be a defender of human rights.
Maybe Eich will change his mind. Perhaps he believes an ancient text attributed to an ultra powerful being commands him to oppose same sex marriage. Believers have come around to support all kinds of liberal values and practices in spite of such texts. Perhaps he considers marriage an illegitimate institution and would prefer equality arrive through resetting marriage to civil unions for all, or something more radical. I can comprehend this position, but it isn’t happening this generation, and is no excuse for delaying what equality can be gained now.
In the meantime one thing that Mozilla supporters might do to counter Eich’s support for banning same sex marriage, short of demanding he step down (my suspicion is that apart from this he’s the best person for the job; given what the mobile industry is, someone from there would likely be a threat to the Mozilla mission) is to “match” it in kind, with counter-donations to organizations supporting equal rights for LGBT people.
Freedom to Marry seems to be the most directly counter to Eich’s donation, so that’s what I donated to. The Human Rights Campaign is probably the largest organization. There are many more in the U.S. and around the world. Perhaps Eich could counter his own donation with one to an organization working on more basic rights where homosexuality is criminalized (of course once that is taken care of, they’ll demand the right to marry too).
Other Mozilla-related notes that I may otherwise never get around to blogging:
- Ads in new tabs (“directory tiles”) have the potential to be very good. More resources for Mozilla would be good, “diversification” or not. Mozilla’s pro-user stance ought make their design and sales push advertisers in the direction of signaling trustworthiness, and away from the premature optimization of door-to-door sales. They should hire Don Marti, or at least read his blog. But the announcement of ads in new tabs was needlessly unclear.
- Persona/BrowserID is brilliant, and with wide adoption would make the web a better place and further the open web. I’m disappointed Mozilla never built it into Firefox, and has stopped paying for development, handing it over to the community. But I still hold out some hope. Mozilla will continue to provide infrastructure indefinitely. Thunderbird seems to have done OK as a community development/Mozilla infrastructure project. And the problem still needs to be solved!
- Contrary to just about everyone’s opinions it seems, I don’t think Mozilla’s revenue being overwhelmingly from Google is a threat, a paradox, or ironic. The default search setting would be valuable without Google. Just not nearly as valuable, because Google is much better at search and search ads than its nearest competitors. Mozilla has demonstrated with FirefoxOS that they’re willing to compete directly with Google in a hugely valuable market (mobile operating systems, against Android). I have zero inside knowledge, but I’d bet that Mozilla would jump at the chance to compete with Google on search or ads, if they came upon an approach which could reasonably be expected to be superior to Google’s offerings in some significant ways (to repeat, unlike Google’s nearest search and ads competitors today). Of course Mozilla is working on an ads product (first item), leveraging Firefox real estate rather than starting two more enormous projects (search and search ads; FirefoxOS must be enough for now).
- The world needs a safe systems programming language. There have been and are many efforts, but Mozilla-developed Rust seems to have by far the most promise. Go Rust!
- Li Gong of Mozilla Taiwan and Mozilla China was announced as Mozilla’s new COO at the same time Eich was made CEO. I don’t think this has been widely noted. My friend Jon Phillips has been telling me for years that Li Gong is the up and coming power. I guess that’s right.
I’m going to continue to use Firefox as my main browser, I’ll probably get a FirefoxOS phone soon, and I hope Mozilla makes billions with ads in new tabs. As I wrote this post Mozilla announced it supports marriage equality as an organization (even if the CEO doesn’t). Still, make your counter-donation.
I wish they did. I like the contention created by that level of transparency, it causes some people to be upset, and generally speeds up change, even by a little bit (all conjecture).
Marriage equalitists don’t shoot people. They tend to be the lovey-dovey types. Pro-choice people get gunned down, so they shouldn’t be exposed, until that is no longer a danger. I doubt the change in usage of FF by bigots would be substantial if the money have been donated differently, so I’d say this is an overall win.
Of course there aren’t many things not connected to bigotry and violence that I find unacceptable… ^_^
“If you lead an organization dedicated to human rights, you need to be a defender of human rights.”
“Human rights” (along with “freedom”, “equality”, etc.) is one of those words that has become empty during time (mainly because we like to use it as club when debating instead of giving it an agreed-upon meaning). That’s plain and simple framing, doesn’t amuse me.
More in general, pardon me if I am blunt, but Mozilla deals (oversimplification) with “open internet” and “browsers” and lately “OSes”: there is *no way* we will agree on *everything*; sharing resources on a common goal seems the way to go (proven way, if I may add: I am sure you recall the time where licences with “do no harm” or “only individuals located in countries x,y,z can use this program” were hip).
Bonus point for this post for being propositive (“I think this guy may have a good set of skills for a CEO, I don’t agree with this particular view os his, to offset this I will donate and encourage to donate to organisation x, y, z”) instead of typical-internet-disruptive (“resign now, mr. Ugly111!!!!!11!”).
I am sorry if I came as a bit too vocal, but are so many external attacks on (again, overgeneralisation) “Free Software communities” that I think we are in no need of splintering up for matters tangent to FOSS.
maiki, I share your wish and conjecture, with caveat about ability to express minority viewpoints (including ascendant ones; imagine reaction not long ago or in many places in the world if it was found out the leader of some high visibility organization materially supported gay rights) also being valuable for change. In lieu of a long text explaining why this is only a caveat and not dominant, I’ll say such a text by me would probably end up in sousveillance territory.
Francesco, thanks for recognizing that my post is propositive. Terms can be used in an empty way, but I don’t believe I am doing so. I’m using them as they’ve been used in western political discourse for centuries, as I hope the post linked to those words might help explain. Use in this discourse is varied, even contradictory (indeed one of the things that makes marriage equality also a no-brainer is that it is without tension among negative/posititve/legal/opportunity/outcome characterizations) but rich rather than empty. People in free software communities of course can’t and shouldn’t agree on everything, but I don’t agree this is a tangent or splinter. Nobody should be excluded from using free software (by licenses or any other means), but this is about requirements for leading a free software institution, not using free software. Free software has a long way to go in being more inclusive and safe for minorities of all kinds (the splintering you don’t see is people who don’t show up because they don’t feel safe or welcome), so I think high requirements in this vein for leadership are OK. Also, I’d like more people to be convinced that software freedom and the like are important ethical matters, but feel that free software ethics is trapped in bizarre world where personal choice about licenses is the highest expression. Such is utterly unconvincing; engagement with the rest of the world on human rights, including internal critique of free software communities on human rights issues, might help break out of that trap.
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