Brendan Eich should not have been pressured into resigning as Mozilla’s CEO

Brendan Eich has stepped down as the CEO of Mozilla after only a week in the job. There was some controversy upon his accession to the post, which reached its zenith when OkCupid started blocking Firefox users and urging them to switch to another browser. The reason for this controversy is a donation Eich made to the campaign for California’s Proposition 8 (which made gay marriage illegal in that state).

Eich’s views (or, rather, his expression of his views though a financial contribution to a political campaign) appall me personally. But what were those who campaigned against him hoping for?

Mozilla itself is already an ardent supporter of gay rights. There was no question of that changing under Eich’s leadership. That was re-iterated several times following his appointment. There was, in fact, no indication that Eich’s stance on gay marriage had any effect on his ability to do his job, nor on how he would lead the company.

Eich can still be as bigoted and homophobic as he likes in his own time. If he hasn’t changed his viewpoint already, forcing him to give up a promotion doesn’t seem to be a very good way to get him to support gay marriage. In fact, it’s a pretty terrifying abridgement of his freedom of speech by mass bullying.

And it is a matter of freedom of speech. Eich’s forced resignation threatens all those who speak out against the wind on controversial issues, and should be troubling to all those who care about free speech.

Some people still seem to have trouble understanding that freedom of speech, by definition, is also freedom of speech for viewpoints you disagree with, find offensive or morally disgusting. If popular demand forced a gay CEO, or a heterosexual CEO who supported gay rights, out of his post for no reason other than their sexuality or views, it would be a natural cause for controversy. This situation is little different except that the rôles are inverted. “They’re right and Eich is wrong” is not a valid defence of the actions of those who stirred up the controversy about Eich’s appointment.

In short, Mozilla (and the web community) has been robbed of a capable and talented leader. Eich’s resignation has achieved nothing. And instead of trying to spread their values by reasonable persuasion, those who campaigned against his appointment have ensured that all those who disagree with them are simply cowed into submission and silence.

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