Mozilla in Twitter-storm over new CEO's support of California's anti-gay marriage measure

This week, the Mozilla Foundation, advocates of the “open web” and makers of the Firefox browser, found itself in hot water over the appointment of its CEO.

After the foundation announced the internal promotion of Brendan Eich as chief executive, the issue of Eich’s $1,000 donation to Prop. 8, the 2008 anti-gay marriage initiative, was resurrected. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the donation became an issue in 2012 but Eich and Mozilla, which is based in Mountain View, weathered the Twitter-storm over the donation.

Now, it’s a little harder with Eich, the creator of JavaScript, in the top job. Some Mozilla employees and developer groups have called for his resignation, as Ars Technica reported.

Eich, who has been the organization’s chief technology officer since 2005, acknowledged people’s concerns about his commitment to equality. On his personal blog, he spelled out the organization’s goals to be inclusive, asking for time to prove himself:

I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.

Eich has not offered an explanation for why he made the donation to the initiative, which passed but was later struck down. Nor has he mentioned whether his point of view has changed, as Owen Thomas, the editor-in-chief of ReadWrite pointed out in tweets.  Thomas wrote: “What I want to hear from @BrendanEich: ‘I was wrong. I no longer believe the hateful and irrational things that led me to support Prop 8.’ ”

Perhaps Mozilla and Eich hope everything will blow over like it did two years ago. But that may not be the right strategy. As Matt Andrews of The Guardian writes, we are in a new era where the tech industry is wielding more power than ever and its leaders are pushing on policy fronts:

A CEO’s political views and opinions shape that organisation’s future: Mark Zuckerberg’s burgeoning interest in US immigration law comes from a desire to widen the net Facebook casts in hiring talented people from around the globe. While it’s unlikely that Eich would suddenly introduce anti-gay attitudes to Mozilla’s company manifesto, likewise it feels counterintuitive to the organisation’s aims to let such things go unchecked.

Inside Mozilla, there are a lot of difficult discussions happening, writes Matt Thompson, Mozilla’s director of community engagement and chief storyteller:

Mozilla needs your love and help right now. More than just a debate about our CEO, this threatens to divide us in other ways if we let it.

Above: Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. (Photo by Darcy Padilla/Mozilla).

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (213 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.