As Silicon Valley tech companies continue to aggregate more power and influence than ever before, it’s only natural for them to start sticking their noses in local and national political campaigns.
We’ve reported extensively on some of the strange bedfellows these partnerships have created, from “trust-us-we’re-not-evil” Google donating money to Koch-backed climate change deniers, to the Electronic Frontier Foundation partnering with rightwing extremists who want to dismantle eighty years of environmental, infrastructural, and social welfare programs, to Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us bankrolling two anti-environmentalist ad campaigns.
Regardless of where you stand on these issues (well, climate change is less an “issue” and more of a reality, but I digress), throwing money at anti-science, anti-sustainability endeavors goes against the core values held by some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful players — the tech heavies whose support FWD.us lost in the aftermath of those ads included Elon Musk, Vinod Khosla, and David Sacks.
But the latest move from Facebook might be the most alienating high-profile show of political support by a tech company yet. According to documents filed with Utah’s Lieutenant Governor, Facebook has donated $10,000 to the campaign of State Attorney General Sean Reyes, who recently filed an appeal to challenge a ruling that would have made gay marriage legal in Utah.
In one fell swoop, Facebook has somehow found a way to piss off both the true blue liberals in Silicon Valley and the techno-libertarians, for whom anti-gay marriage legislation is just another example of government overreach. It’d be almost impressive if it weren’t so despicable.
For evidence of the tech world’s unwillingness to put up with anti-gay bigotry, look no further than what happened to former Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich. Less than two weeks after Eich was hired as CEO, he resigned in the wake of public uproar over a $1000 donation he made in support of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages. Granted, Proposition 8, being a California law, hit much closer to home to techies from the Golden State, and Eich, while a longtime Mozilla veteran, was brand new to the position. Nevertheless, it shows what happens when the leader of a supposedly progressive tech firm takes a stand against equal rights.
So what does Facebook have to say for itself?
A company spokesperson told the Utah-based LGBTQ magazine QSaltLake,
Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue – because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.
I get it — the fight over net neutrality will be instrumental in keeping the Internet as open to as many creators and consumers as possible, which is pretty important. But there are plenty of pro-open-Internet politicians, and not all of them are famous for shitting on the equal rights of American citizens.
Not only does the donation go against the values of many of its Silicon Valley peers; it also goes against Facebook’s own conscience, which on its Diversity page writes, “We value the impact that every individual can have. We are dedicated to creating an environment where people can be their authentic selves and share their own diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and ideas.”
That is, unless those diverse individuals are gay and want to get married?
Compromise is a natural part of American politics, and to expect to get anything done without giving up something to the opposition is naive. But equal rights for all Americans should not be up for discussion as a bargaining chip. And in the wake of the FWD.us controversy, Facebook should know by now what can happen when you strike a deal with the devil.
Bob Henline of QSaltLake has started a Change.org petition that asks Facebook to “publicly decry this bigotry and make an equal or greater contribution to the campaign of Charles Stormont who is also seeking the office of Utah Attorney General.”