Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, executive director of Transfield Holdings, the company was the catalyst for artists boycotting Sydney's Biennale festival because of the company's involvement in supplying detention centres for asylum seekers. Photo: James Brickwood
Online dating portal OkCupid is, as anyone who’s used it will know, more or less a place where anything goes. You want to ask women if they have “strong, muscular calves” before you’ll date them? Go right ahead. Photos of you dressed as a giant cross-dressing cat? Be our guest! Looking for casual sex with literally any adult human being? Great!
Given that broad church approach to human interaction, you might be surprised to find that there are limits to what OkCupid will tolerate, and it turns out it’s rather brilliant: the site has ceased functioning on popular browser Firefox, because Mozilla Corporation’s CEO Brendan Eich is an opponent of same-sex marriage.
That’s right, attempt to access OkCupid via Firefox and you’ll be met with an error notice that reads, in part, “We’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”
Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla. Photo: Getty
Eich donated $1000 in support of Proposition 8, the California state constitutional amendment that - in the official wording - “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry” (which in turn inspired the “NO H8” campaign you likely saw many celebrities supporting); in other words, a fairly unequivocal statement against marriage equality.
Mozilla has distanced itself from Eich’s personal politics, releasing a statement reiterating support for LGBT equality: “Mozilla’s mission is to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just. This is why Mozilla supports equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples. No matter who you are or who you love, everyone deserves the same rights and to be treated equally.”
Not enough, it would seem, for OkCupid, who are sticking fast with their Firefox protest, which illustrates a dilemma we are increasingly faced with: is it possible to support a company or project whose politics, on the whole, are solid, if the person holding the purse strings is less than right on?
Two similar examples in recent memory include “Skip Ender’s Game”, in which LGBT groups called for people to boycott the big-screen adaptation of noted homophobe Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel (despite the fact the entire cast and crew were vocal in their support of LGBTI people), and closer to home, Sticky Institute’s pulling out of the annual Zine Fair at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. That may not seem like a big deal until you consider Sticky’s considerable presence in the local zine community.
In a statement, the artist-run collective pointed to Transfield Holdings’ - the same company whose Biennale involvement saw multiple artists’ boycotts of the event - sponsorship of the Museum of Contemporary Art as reason enough not to get involved: “We believe that participation in the Fair would contribute to the creation of cultural value and validation for Transfield Services, a company whose profits partially derive from the mandatory detention of people seeking protection from abuses of their human rights.”
In a broader context, it’s easy for armchair commentators to dismiss, say, a zine collective’s boycott of an event they’d see as niche. But in a wishy-washy world of “well, you can’t win ‘em all” approaches to politics, to see a big company such as OkCupid - which has millions of users - taking such a visible stand is quite impressive.
Yes, Mozilla deals in open-source software; they don’t necessarily stand to lose money if people desert their product. But as this essay by Mozilla Foundation employee Erin Kissane (Eich is CEO of Mozilla Corporation, a subsidiary of the former), the symbolism of Eich’s appointment is important:
“A CEO is a symbol. Mozilla’s work is made cohesive by an activist mission, rather than by a mandate to make as much money as possible. It is difficult for me to understand how we are best served by a leader whose capacity to divide our community is so apparent.”
Voting with our wallets - or, in this case, our open-source browser choices - might seem an insignificant action, but it sends a message in the language that those at the top speak: capitalism.
Once companies begin to realise that shoddy politics can hurt the bottom line, we might begin to see real change.
Until then, search for hot monkey-suit sex in a browser more ethically suited to the 21st century you want to live in.