Caught Between Two Movements

I’m sitting inside on this gray rainy Oakland, CA day flipping between Firefox browser tabs. One tab is Mozilla’s HR web portal where I am filing a “Qualifying Life Event” form to add my domestic partner, Nina, to my benefits plan. The other is a news feed about our new CEO, Brendan Eich. Another tab holds Facebook, where I’m putting up a defense against a load of vitriol aimed at Mozilla in my own news feed. I find myself in the bizarre position of defending a company led by a man who donated to support a campaign that hurt me and my family.

In 2004, 13 states (including my home state of Ohio) voted “yes” to define marriage as between one man and one woman. A heavy sense of hopelessness settled in the hearts of many LGBT Americans who felt their neighbors had banished their families to second class status. We grieved, got angry, and then we got organized. In 2005 I co-founded Equality Ohio and for several years toiled next to some of the most hard-working LGBT activists in the world. On the day DOMA and Proposition 8 were nullified in 2013, I was lucky to be in a room with organizer friends. We hugged and cried tears of joy. It’s a very rare thing to experience any real victories in a lifetime of movement building.

There is no stopping the train. Right now over 38% of the U.S. population lives in a state that either has the freedom to marry or honors out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. Anti-equality donors are unnecessarily prolonging the suffering of some LGBT people, but there is no doubt that the arc of history is bending toward equality. The firestorm raging right now over Eich’s appointment is a testament to how scorned his position on marriage is. Personal beliefs against equal rights for LGBT people and families will be ground to dust under the weight of goodness and love sooner rather than later.

Today, there is another nascent movement that I think is so important that I decided to roll up my sleeves and help get it off the ground.

The fundamental human rights to privacy and freedom are threatened by massive corporate and government investments in tracking and mining our data while we use the web. This web that we rely on so much — that is in our pockets and inside our homes and in front of our kids — is becoming less trustworthy. If we don’t turn things around, the future of our global, connected world is at risk.

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. Thanks to Snowden’s release of NSA documents, people are angry, and now it’s time to get organized. Mozilla is the right organization to lead this movement because we are a nonprofit with a mission to build the web the world needs, not the web that will make Mozilla the most money. Our products give users choices and protect privacy. We are different by design and “doing good is part of our code” is not an empty platitude. Mozilla does do real good. We know how to protect and save the web; the world’s largest global resource. We’ve been doing it for 15 years under the leadership of early volunteers and founders Mitchell Baker and Brendan Eich.

I work at a place that requires a commitment to openness, privacy, and equality, but not an allegiance to a particular political goal. That is how Mozilla has been able to build a huge, diverse, global community focused on one important mission.

Unfortunately to much of the world, our mission is poorly understood. The world doesn’t yet realize that it needs Mozilla more than ever. That’s because we’ve been pretty terrible at telling our story. We have done a poor job of helping the world understand there are very real threats to our web and that we overcome those threats through openness, corporate and government accountability, and user choice — all things Mozilla stands for. That is why it’s painful to watch Brendan Eich’s actions against same-sex marriage define who Mozilla is. That void is now being filled by this and this and this.

I am both an LGBT activist and a Mozillian. Brendan’s actions against marriage equality make me sad and angry, but ultimately they have had no real bearing on the good work happening at Mozilla. I believe in what Mozilla is doing so strongly, that I am excited to be collaborating with people who don’t necessarily share my beliefs, including Brendan. I have been a part of many organizations who have tried and failed to set aside differing and diverse beliefs in order to come together around an important and common cause. Mozilla comes closest, by far. It’s what makes Mozilla incredibly special.

That is our story. Mozilla is about coming together and getting organized to save the open web, not about Brendan Eich’s (losing) political battles. That’s what the world needs to know.

15 thoughts on “Caught Between Two Movements

  1. Thanks for writing this, Andrea. You capture a lot of the things I’ve been thinking over the past week. I look forward to working with you and other Mozillians to figure out how to best tell our story.

  2. Your defense of a bigot does not change the fact that he is a bigot.

    I sincerely hope that either Eich resigns or (even better) Mozilla collapses.

    • Bold statement Jack, you hoping that hard work of hundreds of developers and contributors collapses. Guess what, your hopes do not matter, neither does your opinion, neither do your crappy thoughts.

      • I’d rather that trillions of developer hours go down the drain than to do anything that might end up putting even one penny in the pocket of a bigot like Brendan Eich.

        Thankfully, you matter about as much as I do.

  3. Wow – I hadn’t yet run into this articulation of this assessment, that LGBT rights have passed their watershed and that the free and open internet (with privacy for all) hasn’t, and thus deserves? needs? our help more. I’m chewing that over — thanks.

    • No—there’s more work to be done on both. The argument is, rather, that forcing Brendan Eich out of his job hurts one cause and doesn’t help the other. So it seems like an own goal if you care about both causes.

      • The ideal solution would be for Brendan Eich to financially support pro-marriage equality institutions. He gave $1000 to a bigotted cause, $10,000 should to an organization supporting LGBT rights should go a long way to fix the damage he’s done.

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  5. Andi, I so admire the way you have thought this thru instead of going all knee jerk like so many people do. We, your whole family,are so proud of what you’re doing with your life, deciding what’s important and and devoting yourself to making a difference in the world. Wishing you and Nina much joy.

  6. I appreciate your point of view on this matter, but i must warn you… being tolerant to intolerance is not going to pay… not for you and neither for Mozilla.

    A CEO represents a company, just as a politician represents his party and the people who voted for him/her and most of your users are seeing a homophobic man who is leading Mozilla. This is what they see, and they will act accordingly. Many of them will make the same, exact reasoning of Jack here: “i don’t want to make this guy richer, so i’ll not support this company anymore”.

    Said this… I do believe that everyone has the right to hold an opinion, no matter what the subject is. Problem is that this guy, your new CEO, does not limit himself to hold an opinion… but thinks he has the right to force this opinion on other’s lives. Infact he _acted_ to stop people he didn’t even know from marrying whoever they wanted. He actively supported a law that has caused harm and pain to several thousand persons (or even more). He acted _knowing_ that his actions aimed to REMOVE someone else’s freedom to live their own life in the way they preferred.

    So, as you can see, this goes a bit beyond “holding an opinion that you don’t like”. Your CEO has shown to have no respect for whoever does not think as he does, and in particular, your CEO has shown to have no problem to impose his personal believes on other’s lives. This clearly shows that he wants to have the right to stop someone else, who he doesn’t even know, to have a life that he does not like/approve.

    This is what is at stake here. And this is why i think that this CEO not only is damaging Mozilla beyond repair, but he is also _deeply incompatible_ with Mozilla’s mission.

    Personally, if this CEO does not resign or is not in some way expelled from Mozilla, i’m going to stop supporting any product from Mozilla altogether. I’ll stop testing my websites on Firefox, i’ll uninstall it from all my machines and i’ll suggest to everyone i know to do the same (explaining them why). I’ll also stop suggesting and installing Firefox in several businesses where i work.

    I’m sorry, but I’m not going to support a company with a CEO that thinks to have the right to decide how I (or someone else) should conduct my life. I’ll not support a CEO that will use the money that he gains from Mozilla to fight the rights and freedoms of anyone and to harm people he doesn’t even know or care about just “because he can do it”.

    He has the right to have his personal believes, but he doesn’t have the right to use his power and his money to force someone else to live as he demands. And certainly i have the right to switch to a different browser and stop supporting any product that gives to this person more money and more power over someone else’s life.

    • Well said. This is what Mozilla needs to respond to, and what they have noticeably ignored in all of their responses so far.

  7. I’m going “AAAAAAAA YOU IDIOTS” at Mozilla’s handling of this. I see things like this. That’s a seriously significant mainstream gay charity, made of people who can’t use computers, issuing a press release to say they’re boycotting Mozilla and removing Firefox from their computers.

    I’m a press volunteer for Wikimedia. I am strictly an amateur at PR, but my goodness, this has been the worst damage control I can recall seeing in quite a while.

    I can see how to fix this, but it all requires a time machine, e.g. Brendan donates $2k or $5k to a gay charity requiring a public record (as the Prop 8 donation did) three months ago, someone notices two months ago, he can then stay as gnomic as he likes. Something like that. But, y’know, literally nobody in the upper echelons of Mozilla thought of this.

    I completely concur that Brendan is one of the best possible people to lead Mozilla … except that it completely failed to occur to him, nor, apparently, anyone else that this would be an issue. HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT THIS WOULD BE THE STORY. That says bad things about his perceptions as a CEO, and bad things of the board that they missed it too.

    I admit I’m stumped for thinking of a good way out of this one, now, with all that’s gone down in the past week. What would work now?

    (What I actually think. But I don’t want Brendan kicked out.)

  8. (I did lots of beta testing on early Mozilla builds and volunteered for the 1.0 documentation effort, and co-wrote the Mozilla 1.0 FAQ; my name is in the credits, and I’m really proud of that. I haven’t done much directly for Mozilla since 2002, but I still take all this very slightly personally. And I have gay friends who work at Mozilla.)

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