Why OKCupid Took A Stand Against Mozilla's Anti-Gay Rights CEO

Why OKCupid Took a Stand Against Mozilla's Anti-Gay Rights CEO

Today, most tech companies are polluting the internet with stupid pranks. But there's one brave statement being made on the internet that isn't a dumb joke at all. OKCupid is blocking Mozilla Firefox users from its service with a message encouraging them to use other web browsers. Why? Mozilla's CEO supports anti-gay causes, and OKCupid;s founder Christian Rudder told me today that his company won't stand for it.

"April Fools pranks are so fucking lame," Rudder told me this morning. "Let's do something we actually believe in this week." In an interview a few minutes ago, Rudder broke down the company's reasoning for blocking Mozilla when there are so many other companies it could oppose. The reasoning, it turns out, was pretty simple. This was the right thing to do. The resolution might prove more complicated, though — because OKCupid doesn't have a plan.

For those of you just catching up, last week Mozilla appointed a new CEO named Brendan Eich. An uproar ensued when it was learned that Eich opposes gay marriage. In 2008, he gave $US1000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the ultimately successful California ballot initiative that explicitly changed the state's constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Eich's position on gay marriage bothered OKCupid's founders. In a series of emails over the weekend, they discussed the extent to which they should take a stand when they disagree with a company they work with. According to Rudder, about 12 per cent of OKCupid's traffic comes from Mozilla, which in Rudder's estimation, makes the browser's developer something of a business partner.

Eich's opposition to gay marriage was deeply offensive to many, but to OKCupid's founders, it undermined their work: A decade spent building a dating service that brings people together. "It's not like we're looking to make political statements left and right," he says. "Marriage and people's treatment of marriage is core to our business."

The plan to block Firefox traffic unfolded in under 36 hours, as the founders mulled the possible consequences and notified employees of what was about to happen. It all happened haphazardly — lending credence to Rudder's claim that this isn't just a lame stunt. April Fools pranks end promptly on April 2nd, but OKCupid's actions could have long-standing consequences, especially in light of how it all went down.

In the time it took OKCupid to get the plan going, Mozilla back-peddled — making an official statement that as a company it supports marriage equality. After OKCupid put up its anti-Firefox message, Mozilla complained that "OKCupid never reached out to us to let us know of their intentions, nor to confirm facts."

Despite Mozilla's cover, OKCupid decided to move forward because in Rudder's words, "it just seemed like the right thing to do." Everything happened so fast, though, that its founders didn't have a plan at the outset for how it would like to see the whole situation resolved. "To be perfectly honest, I didn't think this would get that much traction," he says. "Our goal was to raise awareness. We don't want [Mozilla CEO Eich] to lose his job or anything."

Which raises a perfectly legitimate question: What does OKCupid does want? If you're complaining about a CEO's beliefs, isn't the natural outcome that you'd like to see him fired? "I don't have a good answer for you," Rudder says. OKCupid is having a talk with Mozilla this afternoon to discuss a possible resolution. Rudder says he has no idea what that might look like: "We'll see what happens."


Comments

    I heard that a lot of fairly senior staff at Mozilla resigned after he was appointed, but I'm not sure if it was related to this.

      Wasn't related to this, they resigned as they weren't happy with the choice of CEO as they wanted someone not already based with them but a outsider. Reminds me of the Microsoft CEO Search, interviewed over 100 applicants for a outside view, went with someone who works at Microsoft.
      Update, looks like he is out.

      Last edited 02/04/14 12:20 pm

    Blocking people based on their web browser is discrimination. Just like sites that have a message saying to 'upgrade your browser' from IE 10 to Chrome or something.

    All browsers are good at different things, just let everyone use what they want, FFS.

      Those sites don't usually do so due to a dislike of IE, they usually do so because IE doesn't support certain web technologies that are used in that site.

        No, they do that because they have a terrible web admin, that instead of detecting IE6 or 7, just detects IE and gives the message. The web admins putting those scripts in place are just as shit as the old IE's they hate.

          Even the latest IE doesn't support everything it should. It doesn't support WebGL, which is pretty crucial to an open web in the future, and microsoft says they will never support it.

      Also, they didn't block Firefox users completely. There was still a link at the bottom of the page allowing Firefox users access to the site.

      try viewing gizmodo using ie 6

      Youre gunna have a bad time

      They're raising awareness through a cause, which you entirely fail to mention. When you use the word "discrimination" you need to actually... well... NOT lie.

    Mozilla is about software and should keep away from politics in general.
    People have a right to have opinions, even if they are stupid, different to yours etc.
    Blocking a products Users, for the personal opinion of an organisations employee (even though the company openly shares a different opinion) is absolutely wrong. I hope there is a legal way to punish OKCupid for this.

    Last edited 02/04/14 11:56 am

      I broadly agree with you, except for the bit about punishing OkCupid. It may be a bad move by OkCupid, but I don't see any basis to punish them for it (apart from users protesting by not going there or something). They are just engaging in another form of protest.

      Mozilla is political, and that's the main reason I'm a strong supporter of theirs. My choice to use FireFox over Chrome is simply because I'd rather see the internet run by not-for-profits. If only their CEO was as strong a supporter of love freedom as the business is about internet freedom...

        If your view is that the internet should be run by non-profit organisations, then your view is at odds with Mozilla's. Mozilla believes both profit and non-profit organisations are positive contributors to the internet. Quoted from their manifesto:

        Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial profit and public benefit is critical.

      Do you think fancy restaurants should be punished for not letting you in wearing thongs and wife beater too? OKCupid is a private site, they can do whatever the hell they want!

        While they can do this, they can't do whatever the hell they want. There are plenty of things no company (including the restaurant you mentioned) is allowed to do, including many forms of discrimination.

          You're right of course, but I don't think not letting you use a certain browser really counts as discrimination (though opposing gay marriage certainly does).

            I agree, what they're doing isn't discrimination. I don't think it's smart either, but that's a different topic. To be clear, I support gay marriage myself, but I don't think opposition to gay marriage is discriminatory. At its core, the main objection seems to be about the constituent parts of the marriage rather than anyone's sexual orientation. Nobody particularly objects if a gay man marries a woman, or a gay woman marries a man, or even if both partners are gay. It's more about the fundamental definition of marriage (in the eyes of those objecting) as being between a man and a woman. They'd have the same objections if two straight men or two straight women wanted to marry.

            It may seem like a semantic difference but it obviously matters to a lot of people, particularly of religious backgrounds as that's where the whole 'man and woman' definition presumably originated.

            Is it discriminatory? I'm not really sure, as I can't identify what characteristic of a person is being discriminated against. Is it anti-homosexual? In the majority, no.

              That is a straw man argument Zombie. The issue here is gay rights. And you can bet your arse these same people would be disgusted to find out that a gay man married a straight woman.

    As much as I dislike Eich's position on same-sex marriage and I think he's an arse for donating money to the campaign to oppose Prop 8, I have very mixed feelings about the response to his appointment as CEO of Mozilla.
    It really revolves around the extent to which you should or should not be hired on the basis of your political views or values which are not directly related to the company. For example, what about a company refusing to hire someone who gave money in support of a campaign to oppose Prop 8? What about the same thing 15 years ago - if someone donated money to support same-sex marriage campaigns would it then be reasonable to refuse them a job (because same-sex marriage didn't have the same level of social support then).
    What about someone who donated for or against the tax-free status of religious organisations, or who donated for or against the ability for niche religious groups to refuse treatment to children based on those religious beliefs. Hell, what about those who donated to organisations for or against abortion?

    If the attitudes are affecting the work, hiring practices, and so on then I think that removing someone on the basis of their attitudes would be entirely reasonable. If the anti-same-sex-marriage person at work is saying offensive things or behaving inappropriately then fire them. If the neo-nazi in the office wears a swastika band or denigrates other races in a work context (or their attitudes are leading to other problems) then dismiss them. Otherwise, though, they are not there for their personal views.

    It is rather petty by OKCupid for boycotting a company based on one person's personal belief. Everyone is entitled to their own view and OKCupid's boycott is less tolerant than Eich's opinion about gay marriage.

      I guess you would have been cool with buying cotton from slave owners?

        For a more realistic comparison, you'd be buying cotton from a company where the CEO is pro-slave, but the company itself owns no slaves and has an open anti-slave policy.

          Except I didn't make a comparison, I made a comment.

      So we should be tolerant of people's intolerances?

      Also, Eich's isn't just holding an opinion, but putting money where is mouth is, actively enforcing his opinion, just as OKCupid is risking profits to back their opinion. I wouldn't call one party less tolerant. Certainly a whole company shouldn't be held responsible for one person's views/actions, but the CEO's job is pretty much to be the face of the public face of a business, and the embodiment of it's values.

        Would you prefer the hypocrisy of being intolerant of the intolerances of others? All people are free to hold any opinion they want, as we all have the freedom to disagree with the opinions of others. Action against action is justifiable. Action against opinion is suppression.

          I agree with you somewhat, but you have to look at the word "intolerance" - intolerance can't just be an opinion. You can disagree with something, but tolerate it. You can't be intolerant of something, and tolerate it. This is a case of someone putting their opinion in to action by funding it.

          I don't think it's a hypocrisy to to be intolerant of people's intolerance. Intolerance itself is not bad, it depends on what the individual is be intolerant of. As a society, we're intolerant of many things (such as murder and abuse), and few would say those intolerances are unjustified.

            I think tolerance should apply to everything except action. As far as him funding the proposition, do you know his reasons? Are you sure they come from a basis of prejudice or intolerance and not from a more reasonable basis?

            Moreso, this happened 6 years ago and there seems to have been no indication of any prejudicial behaviour since, how long exactly is it appropriate to be 'intolerant' of his donation? Would you say a big alert branding him prejudiced on a public website is a proportionate response to a single event that happened 6 years ago that we don't know his reasoning for?

            In the US version of this article, Mario Aguilar (the article author) wrote in the comments section that being branded for life for any transgression is 'as it should be'. Does that sound like the right kind of intolerance to you? Do you think that kind of blinkered hardline stance would actually help anything?

            Intolerance is a very dangerous, very slippery slope. I wouldn't dare to try to define some intolerance as acceptable and others as not.

            Last edited 03/04/14 1:13 pm

              You're quite right. In this case, it's an action that was taken a long time ago, and with the information presented here we have no real insight in to the reasons for the man's actions. My comments weren't to approve of OKCupid's action, but to point out action wasn't being taken against opinion (suppression, as you say), but action was being taken against action.

              I'm in no way for branding people for life, but I don't believe people should be forgiven simply on the passing of time. I do think some repentance or apology is necessary. If anything the passage of time worsens the act, as more time has passed without amendment being made.

              I would say tolerance is potentially equally as dangerous as intolerance. Tolerating the actions of others you disagree with puts the blood on your hands too.

    I highly doubt a site like OKC will make people rethink and realise how backwards some people are. This will do nothing but annoy the last few people who still use firefox.

    Yeah, discrimination based on browser choice is really terrible. I hope you will join me in condemning ok Cupid for their discriminatory behavior. What people do in the privacy of their bedrooms (where I suppose they do their browsing) is no one's business, especially given the accumulating evidence for a genetic basis for browser choice. No one chooses to use Firefox; they're born that way.

      Lets also condemn every website that gives you an "upgrade from IE to chrome/firefox" message because the web admin is so terrible at scripting it picks up any IE, instead of IE6 & 7.

      Their contact forms are here: http://www.okcupid.com/contact-us

      Tell them they should not discriminate users based on browser choice and to stop dragging every user of Firefox and forcing them into supporting gay marriage.

    Wow, that got personal. Why should you discriminate on a company's CEO's personal beliefs.... I mean, if he made some sort of anti-gay company policy, or started hiring only straight staff, or laying off GLBTI staff, I could understand this, but to publicly block a website, denying access to firefox users based on the personal beliefs of one person is a bit too extreme (even if he is CEO).
    Sure, we all want equality, but the debate on this issue is only made worse by stunts like these which escalate too quickly, and don't allow civilised discussion.
    The world has bought into one huge lie that if someone disagrees with you, means that they hate you. Not tolerating intolerance is intolerance itself. Yes, people who hold anti-gay sentiments should sit down and have a good look at what they're doing, and the immense amount of pain and hurt they're causing (not to mention suicide, which is tragic). But pulling stunts like this will just raise the shutters, get them offside and make them not open to a rational, respectful discussion.

    Dude, the CEO donated 6 years agoooooooooo. The gay lobbies just realised this when he became CEO and are out to anatagonise the masses. The people that resigned on the board did so because they wanted an outside hire, not on his views on gay marriage. Its not even official Mozilla policy to defend traditional marriage... they make browsers and it just that its employees have a wide/diverse range of views. This intolerance is pretty evident because they're calling for all those opposing gay marriage to be fired, etc.

      Did you read the article? Apparently not: they explicitly said that they didn't want him to be fired.

        did u not read the coverage on Engadget? they (employees/gay activists) do want him to be fired. Also, on Huffington Post, in OKCupid's words: 'We wish them nothing else but failure'. Down on homosexualist extremism!

    What are Eich’s views exactly that caused OKC’s reaction? As far as I am aware, he donated $1,000 6 years ago against legalising gay marriage. Personally I support gay marriage, but I don’t believe that all anti-gay marriage people are homophobic and I can understand why people that tie marriage closely to their religious beliefs would react the way many have, even if I disagree with it. Is it so hard to have an open dialogue without it affecting your entire company?

      This is essentially a cancerous element to modern social movements. To some people it's not about a dialogue, it's about forcing one side's views on the other. People who are serious about fighting social injustices understand that force (psychological or otherwise) and intolerance of those with differing opinions only serve to reinforce the battle lines and undermine actual progress towards a shift in the social norm. It's only the naive and the thoughtless that think drawing hard lines improves anything. Unfortunately, because being involved in social justice is something of a trend these days, there are a lot of the wrong kinds of people getting involved for the wrong reasons and damaging their respective causes for everyone else.

    A very stupid, ignorant, childish action. It IS activism of a sort, but it's just really, really stupid. It's the sort of thing only an idiot would come up with.
    But it still may have an effect, at least it's got some press and a bit of a light shone at the anti-gay marriage CEO. I just hope it doesn't harm what is a very good organisation, Mozilla, who are a hell of a lot more use and do more good in general than a dating site.

    Okcupid dont want him fired, what do they want?
    Free publicity for their site and plenty of it, under the guise of equality.

    Why the hell do people try and pretend to be Reuters? They're raising awareness for a cause. Why should it matter what the f*cking miniscule set of consequences are? People make statements all the time, different bodies and groups but whenever it's some damn private tech company, it gets scrutinized to an imaginary set of rules.

    They want to do something, they are able, it doesn't hurt, let them do it.

      What they're doing is directly harming the Mozilla foundation by marrying its reputation to that of something their new CEO did once before he even became their CEO, in a very public news getting way. And also unfairly inconveniencing many of their users.
      That's basically PETA type activism: being a cockmonkey, a bully, and overshadowing your good cause through your dumb actions.

        Especially since their goal apparently isn't to get the CEO fired, it seems the only thing they hope to achieve is publicity to score some social justice points. I mentioned above, but that kind of thing is only harmful to the cause, it certainly doesn't help it.

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