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Dropping Dropbox to Crush the Minority - Harvard Political Review

This is deeply disturbing, and anyone or any business who values ethics should be concerned.

Despite the ominous language of the sentence, the statement is not referring to a heinous crime, some act against humanity, or a breach of international law. Rather, it addresses the appointment of a prominent conservative figure to the Board of Directors of a tech company.

The quote can be attributed to a leftist campaign, Drop Dropbox, formed on Thursday morning in response to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joining the Dropbox Board of Directors the night before. The campaign, which has been steadily gaining traction in the tech community, encourages users to boycott Dropbox, a popular cloud-based file storage company, until Rice is removed from the Board.

Their reasoning? She contributed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, authorized terrorist interrogation techniques that could be considered torture, has spoken in favor of unwarranted wiretaps of suspected terrorists, and previously served on the Board of Chevron, an oil company.

Rices actions as secretary of state and on the Board of Chevron should only affect her viability at Dropbox if they are relevant to that role. Dropbox, as a file storage company, could not conceivably spearhead the invasion of a country or a terrorist investigation, making Rices conservative views on these issues irrelevant to her ability to serve on the Board.

Some believe these decisions reflect questionable ethical standards that would impact Rices contribution to Dropbox, but it is important to realize that a persons ethics are multifaceted. Although Rice may have favored the Iraqi invasion, her views towards the internet are ultimately more relevant to her new position. And her belief that the internet should be available to people all over the world shows that, for issues relevant to Dropbox, her ethics are sound. Since we can expect Rice to make ethical choices as they relate to Dropbox, there is no reason her unrelated questionable decisions would impact her activity on the Board. Therefore, the Drop Dropbox campaign is disqualifying Rice simply because her political positions offend their liberal leanings, not because she cant make positive contributions to Dropbox.

What is perhaps even worse is that the campaign is responding to Rices personal political views by boycotting the company, which has not come out in favor of these positions. The campaign is essentially saying that not only are conservatives unfit for high level positions in companies, but also that the companies that hire them should be punished.

This situation is eerily similar to what occurred just a week earlier, when Mozillas CEO Brendan Eich resigned after only eleven days in the position. The LA Times brought to light that Eich had donated $1000 in 2008 to Californias Proposition 8 campaign, which sought to illegalize gay marriage. He received so much backlash from the public and other tech companies that, in his own words, under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader.

Much like Rice, Eich was viewed as an unfit executive for Mozilla because of a personal political position irrelevant to the business. And like at Dropbox, Eichs short-lived tenure as CEO spurred boycotts, most prominently from other tech firms like OkCupid, who refused to display their content on Firefox, Mozillas internet browser.

These boycotts are unlike those that have seen before, using an employees political beliefs as a reason to abandon a company. Even 2012s Chick-Fil-A boycott, which, like Mozilla, was spurred by anti-gay marriage donations, was more justified. In that case, the company, not its employees, was making the donations, so an individuals patronage at Chick-Fil-A directly gave money to anti-marriage equality campaigns.

But now that there have been successful boycotts based on employee ideology, what are the consequences? The most impactful is the silencing of the minority. A high-ranking employee with an unpopular view is now a threat to the companys viability. That means an employee seeking promotion would be less likely to get a leadership position if he made his unpopular view known, leading him to remain silent on the issue.

But progress depends on the views of the minority. Just a few years ago, being in favor of gay marriage, the very issue that caused Eichs resignation, was a minority viewpoint. Had those people been silenced, gay marriage likely would not have caught the traction that it did, and liberal progress would not have been made.

Liberal progress, by definition, is taking fringe leftist ideas, speaking out about them to gain popular support, and then making them law. Yet the supposed progressives behind the Drop Dropbox campaign are, in discouraging communication of unpopular opinions, preventing these liberal initiatives from taking hold.

The other issues caused by these boycotts are innumerable employment discrimination based on ideology, potential violations of freedom of speech, less dissemination of new ideas the very things that make a democracy function.

So, in the end, it is true that This is deeply disturbing, and anyone or any business who values ethics should be concerned. But the This, rather than being Rices appointment, should be the reaction to it. Marking people with unpopular views as unemployable and punishing companies who hire them threatens both progress and the sanctity of our democracy, which is deeply disturbing indeed.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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