TimeWelcome to the Era of Politically Correct Web Browsing
Nick Gillespie @nickgillespie April 3, 2014
Now, apparently, we’re boycotting free products and demanding companies dance to the tune called by socially conscious customers.
Just days after being named the new head of web-browser maker Mozilla, Brendan Eich has stepped down after being outed as an opponent of gay marriage. On Tuesday, dating site OK Cupid urged its members who use Mozilla Firefox to “consider using different software for accessing OK Cupid.” It turns out that Eich had given money to California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State (last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Prop. 8 invalid and same-sex unions are once again legal in California).
Welcome to the brave new world of socially conscious… web-browsing. In the past, consumers might patronize certain businesses (Whole Foods, say, or Ben & Jerry’s) whose stated missions extended beyond increasing shareholder value and avoided others that might have politically objectionable CEOs or reputations for being anti-abortion (Domino’s Pizza, say) or public positions opposed to certain forms of birth control (Hobby Lobby, for instance). Now we’re boycotting free products such as Firefox and demanding companies dance to the tune called by customers. I think that’s a good thing overall — but it may end up being just as difficult for consumers to live with as it will be for corporations.
Whether you care about gay marriage or politically correct web experiences, Eich’s resignation shows how businesses respond to market signals. “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech,” writes Mitchell Baker, the organization’s executive chairwoman, in announcing Eich’s stepping down. “And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”
Just as the Internet has empowered consumers to find cheaper prices, more-extensive reviews, and a wider variety of goods than ever before, it’s also made it easier for them to call out companies for all sorts of dastardly actions, screw-ups, and problems. I like that OKCupid’s intervention wasn’t a call for government action to limit people’s choices or ban something. Indeed, OKCupid didn’t even block Firefox users from its site — rather, it politely asked them to consider getting to the site via a different browser.
But this sort of action complicates the simple act of shopping for both traditional conservatives and liberals in ways that are not yet fully clear. Conservatives should like the fact that this was done without calling for government action, even if they aren’t fans of gay marriage. For liberals, they surely like the outcome — a corporation pledges itself to supporting marriage equality — even as they will have to rethink the idea that corporations or businesses don’t have “personhood” or can’t take stances on issues (as liberals like to claim when it comes to campaign-finance questions). In fact, we ascribe intention to businesses all the time, based on their practices and leadership.
* * *Read more ...