The Hypocrisy Of Sam Yagan & OkCupid

OkCupid played a major role in the successful effort to bring down Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich.

On March 31 the company showed a message to all visitors using Mozilla’s Firefox browser. The message stated: “Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

okcupid-firefox-boycott-hed-2014

As we all know, Eich’s opposition to equal rights for gay couples stemmed from his $1,000 donation to support Proposition 8 in 2008. There are no other allegations that he ever showed any other discrimination against gays or anyone else.

Most people will argue (including me) that OkCupid is permitted to express opinions and take actions like this under its first amendment rights as a corporation.

But what was OKCupid’s motivation? And how does OkCupid’s co-founder Sam Yagan fit into this?

I believe that it was a PR stunt by OKCupid, that the company isn’t really committed to gay rights at all, and that OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagan was particularly hypocritical in this.

To go further, I think that a person and/or a company who deliberately destroy a man’s reputation and career under false pretenses just to get a PR bump is being explicitly evil.

Here’s my support of that.

1. Many people (here’s just one example, but a quick search pulls up far more) have pointed out that OkCupid’s actions appeared to be little more than a PR stunt to get attention. Regardless of motivation, there’s no argument that OkCupid benefited hugely from the saturated media coverage of their boycott.

This was a PR stunt, and as I show below, nothing but a PR stunt.

2. Sam Yagan is the co-founder of OkCupid and CEO of Match.com, OkCupid’s parent company. He certainly approved OkCupid’s actions, and his twitter stream shows numerous statements confirming his approval and, later, support of Eich’s forced resignation.

3. And yet Sam Yagan made a $500 donation to U.S. Congressman Chris Cannon in 2004.

4. Cannon has a special kind of hate for gays.

The Human Rights Campaign gave him a 0% rating on supporting gay rights. He voted no on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He voted for a ban on gay adoptions. And he supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as man/woman only.

He also voted to make the Patriot Act permanent, and supports (literally) any limitation on abortion that anyone can possible think up.

He’s the kind of politician that led me to vow to never vote for a republican again.

5. Is it absurd to judge Yagan as a person based on a single donation, years ago, to a politician well known for waging war on gays? Yup. But that is precisely what Yagan and OkCupid did to Eich.

In this new reality, supported by Yagan, it is both acceptable and a moral imperative to judge people based on their prior political donations, even those made years and years ago.

6. How can a man orchestrate and support a boycott of Mozilla over Eich and yet donate to a hateful politician like Chris Cannon? How do you square that?

You don’t. A man who feels strongly enough to boycott Mozilla over Eich’s actions is not a man who would donate to Chris Cannon.

OkCupid received a clear benefit, media attention, for trashing Eich. But their co-founder and ultimate CEO has shown strong anti-gay tendencies in the past. That’s hypocrisy, and worse.

58 thoughts on “The Hypocrisy Of Sam Yagan & OkCupid

  1. grabola says:

    How ironic that OkCupid used Javascript to force the guy who invented Javascript out of his job?

    • mfg42 says:

      freedon of expression without freedom of expression…
      miserable bigoted hypocrites…
      For all FF Users, don’t use this fucking dating site…
      Only one opinion is correct, the rest should not exist.

    • addicaid says:

      Actually it could have just been html with CSS firefox browser targeting…but who’s keeping track….

    • sidspencer says:

      super-super ironic. when i pointed that out to the legions dissing brendan, they did not get it at all. this sam yagan guys sucks — he was behind edonkey as well! not only did they bow to riaa and mpaa pressure to the tune of millions, but they shuttled spyware and were not a good filesharing system. yeah, i call official “shenanigans” on sam yagan starting now.

  2. Comic Book Guy says:

    So, call for him to step down? I mean, it’s only fair. And we’re only exercising our free speech rights here….

  3. briantakita says:

    Reblogged this on Brian Takita and commented:
    This is still a major win for OKCupid. What is also disappointing is the collateral damage to the Firefox brand.

  4. There is something somewhat funny about reading this and a link to your “vow to never vote republican again”. I’m still with you on your hypocrisy argument 100% and after reading your ‘vow’ I get it…it just sounded funny in the middle of your post.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      Yeah I get that. I am stridently pro gay rights. But I also think we should give people a break who didn’t get there as fast as some of us, and I don’t like hypocrites.

      • We’re in the same boat…that’s why I read your ‘vow’ rather than attack you on an initial perception from the sentence. I don’t always agree with you but I appreciate your honestly and willingness to mix it up…you clearly express your perspective from a fair, objective, and meaningful point of view. I can’t say I’ve experienced that from most of the lawyers I’ve known!

      • Eich hasn’t gotten there, yet. And as his contributions to Pat Buchanan’s campaign show, it’s not just about turning America into a theocracy where old books dictate new laws for him. If he’d handled the controversy differently and better, things would have been different. Heck, if he had just said “look, guys, I am driven by a sense of morality that has no foundation in reality, deal with it” he’d have gotten some slack cut.

        But here’s the difference. A donation to Buchanan or Cannon is a political contribution to a politician. I have contributed money to politicians that disagreed with me, quite heavily, on some issues. Cannon, who is not a decent human being in my opinion, supports a lot of post-incarceration services for juvenile offenders, and actively opposed legislation meant to allow ISPs to block “immoral” websites (some think OKC is immoral) as well as net neutrality. One has to weigh those. I hate both for their contributions but I’ll allow for explanations. There’s no debate about donating money to a single cause effort to bring theocracy into America by codifying religious notions into secular law.

        • Mcbeese says:

          @Jonas, the issue isn’t a debate over who is better/worse between Eich and Yagan, it’s that Yagan lives in a glass house and threw stones for PR benefit.

          • Michael Arrington says:

            yes

          • IF Yagan had thrown stones at Eich for contributing to Buchanan, I’d agree with you. He didn’t. He threw stones at Eich for contributing to an attempt at directly establishing theocratic law in California. Supporting a scumbag politician is gag-worthy and makes someone a scumbag. Supporting a single issue attempt at revoking rights and establishing Biblical law or Shariah Law or whatever religious law in a state, that’s not just scumbag, that’s worse, much, much, worse.

            Yagan was a scumbag for supporting bigoted ideologues. Eich was a scumbag for this. But Eich went farther. And for that Eich deserves whatever he has coming, including the scorn of those who might, like him (though I argue that supporting Cannon with $500 is a little less scumbag than supporting Buchanan with multiple $1000s), have supported Republican candidates. Because, again, supporting a candidate with many facets, some of which we agree, some of which we don’t agree with, is vastly different than supporting a one-mind effort to establish religious law in America.

  5. PatB says:

    To be fair, just like Yagan, Eich has donated to many anti-homosexual politicians including Pat Buchanan as the Guardian covered a few days ago:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/02/controversial-mozilla-ceo-made-donations-right-wing-candidates-brendan-eich

    This doesn’t reduce Yagan’s hypocrisy at all, but Eich’s track record is clearer than “no other allegations” would suggest.

  6. goofy says:

    let’s call him OKStupid

  7. “OKStupid”..I love it:) I agree this was a PR stunt and with everyone looking for the “click bait” they can get today, it probably won’t be the last, so who’s next? It was like the click bait news agencies used for CVS and their tobacco campaign. It went on and on and on even doctors were getting sick of it. It’s like let us know when you do your good deed and we will say thank you but gosh darn how many more stories and analytic commentaries can we take:) Even Sermo the doctor’s forum was discussing this marketing move and felt the same way, enough. CVS was probably too trying to pull some attention away from the fact that the DEA busted and closed a couple of their stores last year with you know what rolling out the door and they may get a big fine in California too, same thing the old pain killers rolling out the doors, so hey why not, let’s tell folks over and over and over again we are good guys despite all of that and the news media will love it.

    http://ducknetweb.blogspot.com/2014/03/cvs-drug-stores-could-face-29-million.html

    I think everyone knows the news media is looking for new revenue streams these days too as the money is running terribly short so ad revenue and click bait it is and OK Cupid probably wanted some of that too but yes at what cost and was it really an ethical move. I kind of feel sorry for the folks that share all their data on OK Cupid too as they probably don’t know how behavioral analytics folks buy that stuff up with de-identifed data from dating sites too. Long time ago I checked the site out with setting up a fake account for a couple of weeks to just hang around and observe and it cracked me up that after 2 weeks they email you a flow sheet on your activity:) They are smart mathematicians too that know how to reach the consumer’s jugular for sure and I feel sorry for the younger generation too as dating is supposed to be fun and not a job but again the flow sheet is one more way to keep folks coming back to all the click bait too:) Well we shall see who pulls the next stunt like this and I’m sure there will be more but like you said at what cost and and is it ethical?

  8. freddiemoore2014 says:

    Reblogged this on Reading between the lines.

  9. towo says:

    Some internal sources at Mozilla do tell me that Eich’s motivation still was the fact that while he has no problems with gay people, he has a problem with gay marriage because of a deeply Christian interpretation of the term marriage. So FWIW, it was still a current issue, even though it has a marginally different spin.

  10. pippakin says:

    Reblogged this on Pippakin Around the World and commented:
    Its reassuring to know there are others who think this was a disgraceful attack and a violation of rights.

  11. Joe Clark says:

    All very nice, but leave it to a doyen of Silicon Valley to be completely unaware what an ordered list is, banging out his copy a cigar-chomping lifer at a 1970s newsroom with a Selectric on every desk.

    Also, /the-slug-is-stupid/.

    HTML actually does matter and isn’t something mighty Arrington has risen above.

  12. I get your point but even with bad reasons, the fact that Eich supported prop 8 would have likely popped up anyway.

    I mean, you’re shifting from the real subject here. Accusing Yagan doesn’t solve the problem. Having an anti-gay leading one of the biggest open source project in the world is a real problem (gay developers do exist). It’s a bit like having a creationist managing Wikipedia.

    The fact that he invented Javascript is not enough (in my mind) to justify that. And I’m a married man with 4 kids, not a gay fanatic.

    To finish, you accuse Yagan to support an anti gay republican. This is totally different from supporting prop 8. I mean he could support him for many other reasons, this is not clearly related to an anti-gay position.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      “clearly?”

    • Tune says:

      Being married and/or having any number of kids doesn’t say anything about how gay or ungay a person is…

    • userhorologium says:

      ::It’s a bit like having a creationist managing Wikipedia.

      That’s what Conservapedia is about.

      ::The fact that he invented Javascript is not enough (in my mind) to justify that. And I’m a married man with 4 kids, not a gay fanatic.

      I believe that being the co-founder of Mozilla, and the creator of Javascript, *is* enough to justify his role as CEO. And I am one spouse in a same-sex marriage. I can separate the political from the professional, and I’ve seen absolutely no indication that he has attempted to push any sort of anti-gay agenda in the professional arena. That’s the important thing, not the fact that he supported a measure supported by a majority of Californians, six years ago. Outside of that single donation, he does not appear to have made any statement at all against gay rights. He’s not Jim Demint or Pat Buchanan.

  13. Remi says:

    This conclusion that Sam is against gay rights is patently absurd. In one case, Eich donated money directly to a proposition that sought to ban gay marriage, in the other, Sam donated money to the conservative running in his district. You cannot claim that he did this because of anti-gay views, you can only say that Sam supported Cannon over Cannon’s opponent.

    It’s obvious that Sam supports gay rights, publicity stunt or not.

  14. Sasha says:

    The venom, nastiness, and dishonesty of that post I found astounding. This might be a PR coup for OKCupid, but I know that from this day forward I will never again be a paying member of OKC.

    Whatever you think of gay marriage, whatever you think of Eich, that letter was just nasty, poorly written, and unprofessional.

  15. Robert G says:

    You should give Sam Yagan a chance to respond before you lynch him.

  16. Gizopizo says:

    Is Yagan currently, or has he recently, donated to anti-gay causes or candidates? Eich could have said that he’s changed his viewpoint from 2008, when he donated to Prop 8. He did not. Yagan’s twitter account currently has retweets that tacitly suggest he is pro-equal rights. Obviously, it would be far better if he came out and said so explicitly (and perhaps he has. I don’t have proof of that.) However, saying that Yagan is a hypocrite for donating to an anti-gay candidate in 2004 is missing the point. Eich held to his guns and had to resign. Yagan appears to have evolved his views since 2004. So did I. And so have millions of Americans. (The minute Yagan donates to an anti-gay candidate, then we can call hypocrisy and start a campaign to pressure him out of his role, as well.)

  17. Hippo Crit says:

    I’m boycotting this blog because you voted to support republicans in the past.

  18. Geir Styrren says:

    It was an April fools JOKE. April 1st. You know…

  19. webnewsprofi says:

    Reblogged this on Webnewsprofi's Blog.

  20. tyelko says:

    You are committing a whole bunch of fallacies here.
    First, Eich wasn’t forced out. He decided to quit. Mozilla offered him to take up a different position.
    Second, this was a business decision by Mozilla. Are you employed? If yes, you might find in your contract a clause that you have to refrain from any kind of conduct that would damage the business of the company. When you’re a nobody, that is pretty much limited to libelling the hand that feeds you, handing trade secrets to the competition etc. However, when you’re the CEO, that goes a wee bit further.
    Thirdly, if Mozilla has a certain company vision, as they state, they should have considered from the get-go if this person is the right person to lead the company in light of that vision. They clearly flunked on that. They should have never appointed him. Not because it pisses off outsiders, but because he is not a suitable candidate to begin with.
    And lastly, as was pointed out to you by others, there can be sundry reasons why Sam Yagan gave money to a homophobic candidate. Did you double-check if he gave to his competitor as well?

    • Not Cool says:

      So a bunch of homos get their panties in a twist because he made a $1000 donation 4 years ago. Yeah, he decided to quit, because if he didn’t, the board would have made life difficult for him. It’s called a forced resignation and it happens more often than not when a CEO resigns.

      Also, it was a bad business decision by Mozilla. They are getting a huge amount of backlash for it. Indeed, many of their customers that didn’t abandon them over the rapid release cycle for Firefox are abandoning them now.

      Third, if you have read their mission statement and manifesto, they say nothing about political litmus tests nor about controlling company employees/management personal views. It’s all about building great products that are useable by all people to encourage an open and free internet. By that standard, Eich may have been ideal as the inventor of JavaScript (basis for HTML5, AJAX, and a bunch of other modern web technologies). Furthermore, his views probably added diversity to the management team–views that cannot be easily substituted. This will likely hurt their overall product quality and bottom line.

      • Sam says:

        You have the facts wrong

        > he decided to quit, because if he didn’t, the board would have made life difficult for him.

        Not true. 2 board members were supposed to leave anyway. 1 board member quit for a non-LGBT issue. The remaining 3 board members favored Eich.

        > So a bunch of homos get their panties in a twist

        Sounds like you have some hidden issues of your own

  21. Arrington. Don’t let this one up. Seriously. It would be funny (and maybe benefit you) to keep a campaign going to ouster Yagan on his ‘donation to anti-gay politicians’.

  22. Ron Lussier says:

    Note on point 5: Eich didn’t donate to a politician. He donated to a cause, directly towards dissolving the marriages of a minority group of his fellow Californians. While I don’t approve of a donation to a right-wing politician (they seem to only represent hate these days) it’s certainly more understandable than a donation directly towards bigotry.

  23. Tom Sanski says:

    So in 2006 , both Hillary Clinton and Obama supported the definition of marriage as “a man and a woman”. But you voted for them so your a hypocrite. Being a repubaphobe and a religaphobe shows your bigotry and hypocrisy. Your nothing more than a ignorant leftist who can’t stand the truth.

  24. Tom Sanski says:

    Don’t you people read? Haven’t you learned anything from history? ‘Advancements’ earned through tyranny never endure. You can only win a debate by suffocating your opposition for so long. Your strategy is doomed for failure, because it has always failed.

    In the name of ‘fighting for the freedom to love,’ you’ve utilized hate. For the sake of ‘tolerance,’ you’ve wielded bigotry. In order to push ‘diversity,’ you’ve been dogmatic.

    You are everything you accuse your opponents of being, and you stand for all the evil things that you claim they champion.

    You are exposed. We see you for what you are: a force of destruction and division.
    Being on the left now equates to hate. I will never vote democrat again

    • M Foster says:

      Ah yes, thank you for the homophobic far-right perspective. It’s a good reminder of who the real enemy is.

  25. M Foster says:

    There’s a HUGE difference between what Eich and Yagan did. They’re not even remotely comparable.

    Companies and their executives generally spread their contributions out between democrats and republicans in order to maximize their political influence and lobbying power in Washington and in local state legistlatures. It’s a tactical decision.

    I’ll give you another example. I used to be a corporate banker at one of the top-10 banks in the US. The CEO was a die hard far-right libertarian Republican. But he donated heavily to democrats in order to ensure his political influence, and to make sure he wasn’t punished if and when Democrats came into power.

    Corporations and their executives donating to politicians is rarely a matter of conscience.

    On the other hand, donating to a specific anti-gay movement doesn’t win you political influence or protect you win another party is in power. The only reason you do it is because it’s a personal belief.

    This piece reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the roll that money plays US political process.

    • Alexei says:

      That analysis exposes a whole new ream of hypocrisy. Surely people should be judged on their acts, not on what we presume to be their intentions. Both Eich and Yagan donated to intolerant conservative causes. They should be judged, or not, on that alone. The comparison between the two is absolutely valid.

  26. NW says:

    I’m pretty sure the problem is that not only did Eich specifically donate to an anti-gay cause, when asked if he would do it again he dodged the question and even gave a lame about about having to be inclusive to people in Indonesia (presumably because they’re against gay marriage).

    Sam Yagan had donated to an anti-gay candidate, yes, but he has very obviously changed his mind on the subject and is now against it. In the 10 years since, he’s fighting for equal rights now, and I can find it in my heart to forgive him rather then damn him for a wrong he is fighting to right. today.

    Whereas Eich talks about how he realizes now it had hurt people but refuses to consider changing the behaviour that he’s supposedly sorry for. That’s why I don’t see this as hypocrisy at all.

    • bubbatroid says:

      It’s amusing to see you guys twisting yourselves into pretzels to try to defend this clear-cut example of blatant hypocrisy. But frankly it’s also pretty lame, as is the way you stick your fingers in your ears and go “la la la” whenever anyone points out that Eich’s position on gay marriage in 2008 was identical to that of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

  27. Thomas Milne says:

    If you watched GOT the other night you know that every man needs a code.
    Do you trust someone that can easily change their code?

  28. jeff williams says:

    amazing that you’ve managed to drop this right into first place in goog’s results for ‘sam yagan’ (even ahead of wikipedia). nice work outing this joker, mike.

  29. billis820 says:

    Why does everybody have to agree with everything a politician supports to vote for them? We don’t live in some fantasy utopia, where we all have the same ideas and opinions. We have to weigh what matters more to us. And to be quite honest, most people don’t care about gay marriage. To fault a guy for donating and voting for a politician because of ONE issue, that you happen to disagree with, is a joke. Obviously, he supported the politician because of his views on issues that directly impacted him, and his business. How about instead of shaming random members of public over who they support, you spend your time to promote politicians you support? Wouldn’t that make us a more productive and civil society? Instead of trying to bring down your opponents, we should try to raise our allies.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Many here and on Twitter are trying to claim that these two situations are completely different.

    *Every* situation is going to be slightly different, whether we’re comparing two incidents or two thousand. I wasn’t fully behind the free speech argument until those defending Mr. Yagan as “different’ made it abundantly clear. It greatly disturbs me that many who crucified Mr. Eich feel qualified to somehow draw an arbitrary line and say that protests shouldn’t apply to Mr. Yagan. Unless you are wearing a Supreme Court Justice robe, please stand down.

    Both gentlemen have suffered mobs that have thrown out all shades of nuance. Coming back to major differences: the major difference is that Mr. Eich was railroaded out of a job by a mob Mr. Yagan helped incite. Mr. Yagan and those defending him don’t think the same rules apply, and that is exactly why Mr. Yagan (and his defenders) are hypocrites.

    Michael is spot on here.

  31. Tony says:

    Homo-fascism…

  32. Karl says:

    The SF Chron reports: “In a statement to The Chronicle, Yagan said he was not aware of Cannon’s positions on gay rights when he made the donation in 2004. He said he backed Cannon because he was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversaw Internet and intellectual property issues.

    ‘I unequivocally support marriage equality and I would not make that contribution again today,” Yagan wrote. He declined to comment further.’

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/OkCupid-CEO-Sam-Yagan-bigot-or-hypocrite-5398024.php?cmpid=hp-hc-bustech#photo-6154170

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