Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 19, 2014

Watch out for the thought police

The Web browser company Mozilla prides itself on its commitment to openness on the Web, just not openness of thought.

Decades from now, people may wonder how the company whose manifesto is a collection of warm-and-fuzzy sentiments about the Internet bringing us all together became a watchword for the new intolerance. Ousting your new CEO for what is in essence a thought crime will do that, no matter how much you hail your devotion to “openness, innovation, and opportunity.”

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had contributed $1,000 in 2008 to Proposition 8, the ballot measure to amend California’s Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. How radical was Proposition 8? It passed with more than 52 percent of the vote in liberal California. At the time, no major Democratic presidential candidate, including obviously Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, supported gay marriage.

Yet Eich has been hunted down and effectively fired six years later, not for anything he did in his decades at the company, not for any change he wanted to bring as its leader, not for any misconduct, but for an unfashionable political opinion that he refused to recant.

Eich co-founded Mozilla. The company’s statement upon his elevation to CEO said that he “has been deeply involved in every aspect of Mozilla’s development starting from the original idea in 1998.” What’s more, his “technology vision and general acumen have quietly shaped not only Mozilla, but large parts of the Web over the past two decades.” Yet somehow Mozilla — not to mention the entire Internet — managed to escape the taint of his views on marriage.

What changed? An Internet mob — led by a dating website, of all things — came after him. When Eich was duly defenestrated, the executive chairman of Mozilla, Mitchell Baker, issued a statement that could have been dictated under pressure from Mao’s Red Guards.

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