back to article Blood money is fine with us, says GitLab: Vetting non-evil customers is 'time consuming, potentially distracting'

GitLab, a San Francisco-based provider of hosted git software, recently changed its company handbook to declare it won't ban potential customers on "moral/value grounds," and that employees should not discuss politics at work. The policy addition, created by co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij and implemented as a git pull …

  1. Carma

    I'd tend to agree with Gitlab, there's too many people getting offended on the berhalf of others, if you don't like a companies position, well no-one is forcing you to work there or use it's products - remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's?, people still buy their products....

    Also, one person's terrorist is another persons freedom fighter

    1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

      Not to forget one person's terrorist may end up being considered their freedom fighter at some later point, and vice-versa.

    2. Ian 55

      A handful of grammatical mistakes..

      .. one huge moral one.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's?"

      Remeber US used slave labour for a good part of its history, and then enforced segregation - and that while asserting "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."?

      And there are still a big hostility towards labour laws and unions? And some people still think it's the land of freedom.

      History can be a minefield - the problem should be restricted to what happens *now*.

      It's clear that a company may decide not doing business with entities acting unlawfully or could damage the company. But are employee ready to sustain the impact, i.e. lower wages of even layoffs? Who decides which customers are "good" and which are "evil"?

      What if a "religious" company decides not to sell to LGBTQ customers, or hospitals making abortions? It can quickly becomes a real minefield about who shouts louder.

      Is it OK to complain about ICE, and then buy a phone made in China by exploited underage workers, and sold by companies that kneels to Chinese censorship, to tweet about your outrage? And then wear your Vietnamese made (again, with exploited labour) expensive sneakers, and go to watch an NBA match? Is it OK to sell software to the NBA? Or NFL, after Kaepernick? Or some free tickets settles everything?

      One-way activism always risks to look very hypocritical - thereby, don't complain too much when companies are hypocrites too - and just look at the money. Unless you're an ascetic activist ready to renounce to everything to pursue your aims. If so, hat off.

      1. James 51 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: "remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's?"

        This is a very confused post. It starts off with one point of view and then seems to double back on itself mid-way through. Your arguement seems to be because you can't do everything you should do nothing. Rather, pick your battles and focus your efforts on what you can change while keeping your eye on what you could move onto next.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "This is a very confused post"

          Because the issue is far more complex than many people think, and the solution far more complex than they like to think.

          It's the classic case when some kind of activism looks good for a while, and then drive the situation to the exactly opposite outcome - just like in "Animal Farm" - where a restricted idea of what is "good" (and for a restricted elite) is bloody enforced on others. Saw it already 51 years ago. "Collectives" deciding without any authority but violent force what was "good" or not.

          Is ICE right? No. But when you pick up your battles, you have also to pick up the right fight - which may no be the simplest one, like staying in your cubicle and furiously flood your company with tweets about not selling stuff to them - but carefully avoiding to go on strike, picket ICE offices, or quitting the job. I refused to work for companies I didn't like - I was lucky enough to afford it.

          How much of China surveillance, censorship and "re-education" camps run on open source code? Are this people trying to enforce their code is not use for such tasks, or prefer to ignore the problem utterly?

          It's always easier to protest against an easy target when you don't feel any impact from the outcomes of it - while carefully, hypocritically avoiding any protest that will make you feel the impact, and make your life less glamorous...

          1. James 51 Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: "This is a very confused post"

            Employee’s are risking disciplinary action and their own finical status by telling their employers not to take on certain customers so they are risking everything you are talking about.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "This is a very confused post"

            "Because the issue is far more complex than many people think, and the solution far more complex than they like to think."

            Agreed - how do we want our corporates to behave in a democracy?

            Should they leave the task of protesting government policies to their employees as individuals and accept that some employees will leave because of those policies as sufficient action directly against the government and work to support those that are affected by injustice/social issues in more politically neutral ways?

            Or should corporates actively take part in political issues to try and drive political change? In my view this already happens via lobbying and I'm not sure it is a desirable outcome for a political system as corporates tend to shift the balance of power away from individuals/the electorate due to having access to more resources..

            There is a lot of grey between those two differing views - my question for the GitLab v ICE issue is whether GitLab's action will result in ICE's human rights abuses stopping or have only a token effect as the policies originate outside of ICE and GitLab's tools are not being used directly against those being abused while access to the tools may have other negative impacts to immigration/customs in the US that cause harm to others. That is meant as speculation to demonstrate the areas of grey rather than judgement against GitLab..

            1. veti Silver badge

              Re: "This is a very confused post"

              "Lobbying" gets a lot of stick, but it's not inherently a bad thing. Lobbying is simply what happens when a government asks people what effects certain decisions or policies may have on them. That seems to me like a pretty good idea.

              So, companies have to be allowed to express political views.

              Once you concede that, I don't think there's any logically reputable way you can try to dictate or limit what those views may be. To say anything about what a company "should" do (on moral, as opposed to sheer utilitarian grounds) - is to assert an authority that you don't have, unless you're some kind of stakeholder in the company. To be sure you can disagree with them, and you can lobby them to change their position, but in the end you have to accept their right to determine their own view.

              1. keithzg

                Re: "This is a very confused post"

                I can agree with that as long as they, in turn, do not presuppose the right to determine that others can't themselves express their opinions. And GitLab is very much falling afoul of this with their policy, and worse they're doing so in a transparent attempt to restrict employees' ability to bring pressure on the company as stakeholders therein.

                1. SundogUK Bronze badge

                  Re: "This is a very confused post"

                  GitLab's employees can express their opinions however they like, just not on the companies dime. If I am paying for your time, you do what I want, or you quit.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "This is a very confused post"

                ""Lobbying" gets a lot of stick, but it's not inherently a bad thing. Lobbying is simply what happens when a government asks people what effects certain decisions or policies may have on them. That seems to me like a pretty good idea."

                I concede my point about lobbying was not well made - as long as lobbying is done in a manner that allows different views to be represented reasonably fairly and transparently it has a place.

                Where lobbying tends to fall foul of fairness/transparency is when the resources on one side significantly skew the argument and there is insufficient transparency to see what has happened before decisions on laws and regulations are made . A recent example being the FCC's net neutrality/set top box cost investigations <link>https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/04/fake_neutrality_comments/</link>

                For companies that go down a path or fair, transparent lobbying, I agree with your point. I'm not so sure corporate America fits that model and American politics certainly tends to favour those that make significant campaign donations which leads to the question of just how fair it is.

            2. JoMe

              Re: "This is a very confused post"

              "ICE's human rights abuses "

              Look, I don't know if it's the drugs, or you're just mentally retarded. ICE performs an important job in keeping ILLEGAL ALIEN HUMANS out of the country. It is their remit to do so. And even so, in the US, you are entitled to challenge the right to kick you out in court, and you are guaranteed a fair due process by LAW - in a country you had no right to be in the first place! That's something no other country I can think of gives you. It's enabled people to argue for and receive asylum after being caught and pending deportation. If I just entered your country and demanded rights, services, and jobs; you'd be lynching me immediately and I'd have NO RIGHT to due process to argue my case - I'd be shunted out in a heartbeat back home. Yes, I would.

              There is no human right that allows you to just enter any country of your choosing, and demand to stay, whether or not at the cost of legal taxpayers. That right is gained by:

              Applying for asylum, which can be done at any legal port of entry.

              Applying for an appropriate visa, which can be done at any embassy

              This is something that people are lacking some critical intelligence point on. Dammit.

              1. GrahamRJ

                Re: "This is a very confused post"

                "ICE's human rights abuses"

                No-one's saying they shouldn't exist, nor that the laws shouldn't exist (except perhaps with changes). What's at issue is whether ICE is itself breaking the law in enforcing other laws. No-one doubts the need for police either - but it doesn't mean they were entitled to kick hell out of Rodney King.

                "That's something no other country I can think of gives you."

                Every country in the world has some process for claiming asylum, and all Western democracies I'm aware of have a process of appeal which involves the courts. In Europe we have the European Court of Human Rights which can rule against a country trying to expel an asylum applicant, and has done repeatedly.

                1. JoMe

                  Re: "This is a very confused post"

                  "What's at issue is whether ICE is itself breaking the law in enforcing other laws"

                  Any ICE agent that's been found breaking the law outside their remit has been processed accordingly. In terms of enforcing the law as it pertains the illegal aliens entering without permission to do so, hell I'd be happy if they were lined up and shot; but that would be unlawful. So they're lucky all they get is processed within the framework of the law itself.

                  "Every country in the world has some process for claiming asylum... [European Court of Human Rights ]"

                  Right, but again it's not the COUNTRY granting a guarantee of due process, it's a central EU court which is outside the country that has the ability to force that country to comply based on laws not of the country, but in the form of treaty. In the US, the court in question is a US court, making decisions based on US law.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: "This is a very confused post"

                    > it's not the COUNTRY granting a guarantee of due process

                    It is. Europe's legal system is so integrated so some decisions can be made in Brussels.

                    The country has rescinded that authority.

                    That's stupid argument anyway. The point is that the US is not the pinnacle of [whatever you think it is] and the rest of the world is [a lawless shit-hole?]. Contrarily to what you said, every democratic country has a lawful process for dealing with immigrants. The US turned theirs into tearing children away from their mother, which is shameful.

                    > I'd be happy if they were lined up and shot

                    Oh I see. You beef is that ICE to *too* lenient then. We were on different pages it seems, sorry for the misunderstanding. Wow...

                    .

                    1. JoMe

                      Re: "This is a very confused post"

                      "It is. Europe's legal system is so integrated so some decisions can be made in Brussels."

                      Every EU country has it's own laws around naturalization and immigration. The same passport that allows you free entry to Ireland - for example - does not allow you free entry to other countries in Europe.

                      For naturalization, for example in the UK, you fulfill specific requirements, and your application goes into process. In Greece, those requirements are different. Ireland is different still, requiring Irish citizens to "vouch" for your character.

                      So lets take UK for example with illegal entry. According to Davidson Morris, legal attorneys specializing in immigration, "Paragraphs A320 and 320(7B) of the Immigration Rules state that you have to leave the UK voluntarily within 30 days of your visa expiring in the UK". Additionally, according to Service Gov UK, "Offence of knowingly entering the United Kingdom in breach of a deportation order or without leave." It goes on to say that you can challenge the status BUT the burden of proof is to show you had permission to be there via visa or other means.

                      The difference in the US, is that you can be here totally illegally, no means present, and you can still go to court and demand the right to stay IN SPITE OF being here illegally.

                      Understand the difference? It's subtle, I'll grant you, but it is a significant difference.

                      "Oh I see. You beef is that ICE to *too* lenient then. We were on different pages it seems, sorry for the misunderstanding. Wow..."

                      Yes, actually, with the effort my family and I went through to get here LEGALLY, people coming in illegally offend me significantly more knowing that the US does accept refugee applications at the border, and due process guarantees every person asking for same is processed according to international law on receiving refugees.

              2. Ajreeves37

                Re: "This is a very confused post"

                "That's something no other country I can think of gives you."

                Just to help you think, pretty much every civilised country in the free world provides those rights to refugees and immigrants. It is what used to be seen as protecting for those who cannot protect themselves.

                Just not every country does it by separating families.

                1. JoMe

                  Re: "This is a very confused post"

                  Yes indeed, most countries have laws around refugees and immigration. Are you a refugee, then you apply at the nearest COUNTRY at the nearest port of entry. That means Mexico for most of the people illegally crossing into the US, by the way; but lets put that aside for now. The second way is to get a visa of some kind, permitting you to stay. Then the third category, which is visa waiver programs. All three options involve approaching the port of entry.

                  ICE on the other hand deal with people illegally crossing the border without going through port of entry. In almost any country in the world, you're bundled into jail awaiting deportation, including if you overstay your visa. Having been an immigrant in more than two continents and more countries I care to name, I can attest to same. If you're deported, in most countries you're escorted to your flight home. In the US, however we have guaranteed due process - you are entitled to go to court and state your case. In the example of Europe, you actually have to apply for permission at that court - which isn't often approved.

                  "Just not every country does it by separating families"

                  Thank Obama for that. I for one prefer children NOT to be imprisoned, but that's just me. Bear in mind that the law of separation is actually stemming from a case involving child abuse and sex trafficking. The fact is it was identified that it's common for a desperate person to steal a child, then cross the border with intent to sell them as sex slaves. Yes... that is not only common but an epidemic.

                  In those cases, and they are not clear which are and which are not; you do not want the child left with the abductor.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "This is a very confused post"

            By definition Open Source code cannot exclude use by a state even for the purposes of repression: the open source guidelines were written in response to a licence prohibiting use by the South African government.

      2. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: "remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's?"

        Federal Prison Industries is not merely a memory. It's not just selling things to the government that might be an issue.

      3. JoMe

        Re: "remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's?"

        "What if a "religious" company decides not to sell to LGBTQ customers, or hospitals making abortions? It can quickly becomes a real minefield about who shouts louder"

        What if they do? Guys, you're missing the point of capitalism here. Businesses - except for in very rare cases - do not care what color your money is, whether you take it in back or in front, or if you have serious mental problems. As long as there's no law stopping them selling goods to you, they are after the money first.

        This is the whole reason the US got Jim Crow laws enforced on them. Shopowners were happy to sell to black customers who had money. The law had to get enforced to stop them selling.

        Capitalism is about money, and again with the very small outlier exceptions, are going to take money from whoever they can.

    4. HildyJ
      Alert

      Nobody survives

      I will venture to say that all companies and governments have some people who object to some of their activities. There were those who would have urged cutting off the US government during the Obama administration and other who urge cutting it off during the Trump administration. All issues, with the possible exception of Global Thermonuclear War, have advocates on both sides; otherwise they wouldn't be issues.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Nobody survives

        Got change for 20 million people?

      2. JoMe

        Re: Nobody survives

        Well.. Obama was more because while he's a likable guy, he's severely incompetent as any sort of president. Trump on the other hand is the exact opposite.

        Obama was able to keep people rapt with his dog and pony act, but he sucked heavily for the country. We went from being a nation of the proud and personal accountability, respected around the world; to a nation on our knees internationally, with group and identity politics holding sway over personal responsibility, which is ludicrous. We went from being mildly in debt to being heavily in debt, and I'm not just talking about the seriously lagged recovery of our economy under him. Small businesses suffered heaviest under more than 20 THOUSAND regulations, the majority of which were designed specifically to cripple small to medium businesses while boosting mega business.

        Trump on the other hand, people either like or hate intensely. Yet, under him we have the best economy in over a century, unemployment is the lowest it's been in decades, and we have less people in the poor bracket with more middle class earners than in the last century. We have a more comprehensive trade platform, with trade agreements now leaning in our favor rather than crippling American trade. Small businesses are actually flourishing. Hell, I don't earn much but I have more in my pocket after Trumps taxation policies thus far, and instead of getting it cheap from China I spend more locally, which stimulates business, which stimulates more potential tax cuts, etc.

        The thing is, people get caught up in hating the man when it comes to politics. And they're not wrong: presuming even a quarter of the things we hear are true, I'm sure the President isn't a nice guy. But I'd rather a horrible reprobate that knows how to get us on our feet, stimulates the economy, puts more money BACK in my pocket, reduces government overreach, represents my nation properly; than someone everyone likes but kills the country off.

    5. keithzg
      Facepalm

      "Impressive" argumentation

      There are a lot of issues I have with your comment, but

      > if you don't like a companies position, well no-one is forcing you to work there or use it's products - remember BMW used slave labour in the 1940's

      really takes the cake if only because you've managed to contradict yourself not even with a subsequent sentence, but rather with even just a subsequent clause in the same sentence! Impressive, in a way.

    6. JoMe

      You can tell...

      All the SJW's coming out of the woodwork with your downvotes. And most likely mine to follow. Seriously, businesses are not humans and cannot make moral/ethical stands. Legalities on the other hand, might be an interesting question, but since when is that a company's role to validate the legal status of someone using their products? Google, who have literally hundreds of billions in dollars don't even vet stolen music, they just let labels claim whatever they like as their own; clearly they can't even manage to validate legality.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Old Captains motto

    "If you have the fare we'll take you (or your cargo) there"*

    But please, pretty please, don't for one f**king second, pretend you have any values beyond "Maximize profit"

    *Another honest one would be "We're in it for the bucks and we don't take prisoners."

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Old Captains motto

      Which is why I. G. Farben's share price is so high today

      1. Any other name

        Re: Old Captains motto

        Which is why I. G. Farben's share price is so high today

        Given that IG Farben has become Agfa, BASF, Bayer, and Sanofi, which together account for a rather significant fraction of the world's chemical industry, it's stock isn't worth anything (the company technically still exists, but has been in voluntary liquidation since 2011, and insolvent since 2003), but its production facilities never stopped to operate. They were simply too important for the post-war european reconstruction to be dismantled, no matter how distasteful and criminal their role was before and during the WWII.

        This is actually a very good example of how the moral issues always fall by the wayside when the stakes are high enough, and Realpolitik takes over.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Old Captains motto

      The saying "pecunia non olet" is nearly 2000 years old.

    3. JoMe

      Re: Old Captains motto

      "But please, pretty please, don't for one f**king second, pretend you have any values beyond "Maximize profit""

      So?

  3. A.Lizard

    Is there ethical employment at tech giants?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Is there ethical employment at tech giants?

      Some aspire to it, with varying degrees of success, e.g.:

      https://www.thoughtworks.com/social-justice

      For the most part I think it's nausea-inducing marketing babble:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRUAJVKlUZQ

    2. JoMe

      define ethical employment

      Either you're hiring for skill, specifically putting the right people into a role according to their skill; or you're hiring people based on <insert race/sex/fetish here>. In the first category, you have the purest form of ethical hiring. In the second, the dirtiest form of unethical hiring possible. So... which is it?

  4. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    The downside of course is if another company currently doing business with GitLab does have a moral backbone and takes their business away, does it then become a case of GitLab aligning to the highest payer? Or 10 smaller companies leaving versus 1 big fat juicy oppressive government contract?

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Possibly not companies per se

      GitLab got a moral boost when MS bought GitHub, and a lot of Software projects quit it in GitLabs favour.

      This excess of honesty may well see a fair few projects switch again to a less dodgy host.

      Being focused on the money, they might not care of course, but another Git provider might welcome the better brand recognition that comes with a mass shift toward them.

      Question is, is there one available?

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Possibly not companies per se

        How many projects actually moved over MS ownership? Anything that was more than a vanity project?

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Possibly not companies per se

          How many projects actually moved

          No idea.

          A there was a lot of talk about doing it., and I am 'naive' enough to assume saying they were going to equals doing it, as that would be my follow up action.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poisoning The Well: The Article.

  6. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I feel sorry for GitLab employees. Finding yourself in a position of conflict of conscience, because your salary suddenly starts coming from activity you disagree with (like perhaps suppressing democracy in totalitarian countries), is not fun.

    1. Nick Kew

      Perhaps the problem is rather the opposite: a grey area which the vast majority of all projects occupy, and some nutter[1] campaigning to dump them on account of evil by some perhaps-tenuous association. The Reg forums might be used for bullying and harassment: we mustn't host anything associated with them! Erm, sorry Apache, sorry Perl, ...

      [1] My nutter may be your hero. And it won''t be the same nutter campaigning every cause.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        That's not really the same thing.

        In your example, that would be the equivalent of Gitlab *users* dumping Gitlab because they don't like the fact Gitlab do business with ICE. That's... not unreasonable, but like you say where do you draw the line?

        For Gitlab *employees* it's different. They're actively building a tool which ICE are using to help them do things that the Gitlab employees object to. The things they're objecting to are rather more firm and serious than "might be used for bullying" but that's probably neither here nor there.

        So in your example, it'd be more like Apache developers complaining about El Reg being allowed to use it, and saying the license should be changed to prevent El Reg from using it. It's not a great analogy really, anyway because there's a commercial relationship between ICE and Gitlab, whereas the Apache Foundation has very little say in who uses its products.

        I don't disagree that a lot of projects can sit in that grey area, but there's a huge distinction between being part of that project and a user of that project, which is where your example falls short.

  7. Rainer

    Take a page from Theo's book

    http://www.billionquotes.com/index.php/Theo_de_Raadt

    But software which OpenBSD uses and redistributes must be free to all (be they people or companies), for any purpose they wish to use it, including modification, use, peeing on, or even integration into baby mulching machines or atomic bombs to be dropped on Australia.

    cvs@openbsd.org mailing list, May 29, 2001

    The world is full of hypocrites and these days they seem to congregate around software-projects.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Take a page from Theo's book

      His point is that you shouldn't restrict the rights to use the software because someone might use it for something you disagree with, and I can see the logic in that - you're either open to everyone, and free for everyone, or you're not. In this case, Theo is saying they aren't above or below politics, but that it's irrelevant to their mission.

      In the case of GitLab, of course, you have a company that has to make money to survive choosing to make money from anyone and everyone. Just not necessarily for ideological reasons.

      It's a fine line, and I'm not sure exactly which side of it is the right one, to be honest. But I find the OpenBSD stance somewhat more defensible than the GitLab one, to be fair.

  8. Amentheist

    "If $govt_office has violated the law"

    Erm and who comes up with the law? (I'm not speaking in USA terms only)

    Smells like they're defo gunning for the chinise market.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look

    The software was only resting on our servers...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Look

      That would be an Ecumenical Matter

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Look

        Yes!

        -->

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Look

      These problems are small, those ones are far away...

  10. SVV Silver badge

    Efficiency is one of our values and vetting customers is time consuming and potentially distracting

    Presumably policing employees for violating your code of conduct is also time consuming and potentially distracting. So how can it be worth having one if "efficiency" is your core value? That seems to be the contradiction at work here - they have the time to worry about the behaviour of their employees, but not their customers, so the answer must simply be that the only value they're really interested in is the value of money, no matter how dubious the source.

    My opinion is that most people have some sort of limit of what they find ethically acceptable - I have quit one job during my career because I wasn't comfortable with the origin of the money I was earning, but I accept that other people's limits will be different to mine. And for sure I must have purchased stuff that is not massively ethical either, so there's no attempt at being pious and hypocritical here. It might be fun to test their patience : what if hundreds of software projects focused on criticising GitLab and targeting their management were uploaded? How long would their libertarian principles hold firm then? I think the excuse that "it's our company and we get to decide what we do and don't allow" would be rolled out pretty quickly then, thus invalidating their current argument.

  11. phuzz Silver badge
    Alert

    Won't someone please think of the children poor defenceless money?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Money money money money money.

      /Mr Krabs

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        I think it goes

        Money money money money. Money!

        ;)

  12. DeVille's Advocate

    Let the people vote!

    What I don't understand stand is, Why only the big customers? Why not vet ALL customers? There are services and APIs to assign any person on Earth a social credits value.

    Of course, I probably won't be allowed to be a customer, sadly. I eat meat. I fly on those polluting aeroplanes. I wear clothes manufactured with dubious labor. And worst of all, I'm not obedient enough to maintain a positive social media presence. Oh well.

    Or, make it even simpler... Companies should let all their employees VOTE on every potential client. No, that wouldn't work, they could VOTE THE WRONG WAY! Companies should be forced to give ALL people a vote on accepting or rejecting any customers. But Media and newspapers, such as The Register, should get two votes of course.

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Principles are easy as long as someone else is paying the bills

    AFAIK GitLab is still being bankrolled by the VCs so having a warm and cuddly policy is just good PR that costs next to nothing. Expect it to have shelf-life of the time it takes to IPO or be bought.

    Companies do, in general*, have the right to choose their customers with boycotts on Apartheid South Africa particularly well-documented, including the fact that the boycotts had negligible affect on the politics. But, if you do get into bed with the devil, make sure you don't get caught or fall foul of one of the arbitrary US sanctions: bombs to Saudia Arabia for dropping on Yemen are good; bombs to Iran for dropping on Yemen are, of course, bad. Greasing palms in Africa for mineral rights is always good.

    * There are some exceptions when it comes to dealing with the general public.

  14. Christoph Silver badge

    I'm sorry, but someone had to say it

    What a stupid git

  15. Maelstorm
    Mushroom

    I have said this before....

    I have said this before, and I will say this again. If you are working for someone, then you have NO say in how they conduct business, unless they are doing something illegal. These people who are sounding off on Google's internal message boards? Fine, but don't protest your employer and expect no consequences. If I was running a business, and my employee's objected to who I was doing business with, my view is that if you don't like it, there's the door. I'll probably get downvoted for this, but fuck it. You're paid to do a job. Sit down, shut up, and do it.

    1. jtaylor

      Re: I have said this before....

      I understand your point of view. I've been there myself: ethics aren't free, and if you don't own the company, you don't set the priorities.

      In my very brief time doing commission sales, I learned that, at that company, successful salespeople extracted maximum money from customers. If a customer agreed to pay more than the going price for an item, we were to charge them that higher price: think of some excuse to grab the manager, and he would override the price at the register. The very best salespeople got promoted to other stores faster than the consequences could catch them.

      I'm fortunate to work for a company whose ethics are compatible with mine. Of course, that is an important part of my "total compensation." Your ethics aren't free, and neither are mine.

    2. keithzg

      Re: I have said this before....

      > These people who are sounding off on Google's internal message boards? Fine, but don't protest your employer and expect no consequences.

      That's a bit of a strawman; a lot of such folks do expect consequences, they just believe in their stances enough that they feel the consequences will be worth it.

      Conversely, this move by GitLab is an attempt to avoid consequences for actions, and is rather preemptively cowardly.

      I'd flip it around a bit: If you only want mindless drones, only hire mindless drones.

      As the article points out, GitLab would like to portray itself differently from all that, with an extensive Code Of Conduct that takes many moral stances and tries to position the company as being encouraging of a high level of ethical behaviour. While I disagree with your managerial philosophy as espoused here, I would in fact far rather see a company run explicitly along the grounds you lay out than be cloaked in misleading rhetoric like GitLab is.

      1. Missing Semicolon

        Re: I have said this before....

        GitLab can have a CoC for the staff, entirely separate to its sales policy. The staff are free to work elsewhere if they don't like it.

        The point at which GiLab may change is if they can't hire enough staff.

    3. Esme

      Re: I have said this before....

      Il's not always as black and white a that thought. In my last job, there were a few times where I protested my orders as being stupid and time-wasting; I was concerned about the inefficiencies that would arise if those orders stood. Having made my protest, if the powers that be decided that the orders should stand anyway, then fine - I had done my duty to the company by pointing out that the planned course of action would make things worse, so responsibility for the outcome was then with the higher-ups.

      Contrast that with another time where a director wanted our team to do something actually illegal with customer data. My boss and I were horrified - the more so as that particular director had legal training themselves. My boss and I refused, and pointed out both our ethical objections and the legal ones. The directors directive was quickly rescinded, and we remained with the company for many years thereafter.

      So no, it ISN'T always simply a case of "you do what I say or there's the door" - generally the folk who think like that have too simplistic a view of the world to run a business well, if they aren't downright incompetent, as well as being ethically deficient.

  16. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Who vets the vets?

    We already have a set of rules about whether particular business should be accepted. It is called "The Law". We also have a system for setting or changing the law, called "Democracy" and a separate system for deciding which side of the law a particular business might be on, called "The Courts".

    If you want to undermine any of those, I'm not on your side.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who vets the vets?

      'If you want to undermine any of those [law, democracy, courts], I'm not on your side.'

      I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at, but I do know that discussing politics isn't undermining democracy or the law: it's democracy in action, that's what it is.

      It's a poor lookout when a company bans political discussion at work - it's almost as if they're afraid that their workers will exercise their freedom to protest against things they disapprove of (the freedom to protest within the law being an important right in any democracy.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Who vets the vets?

        Language matters a lot. In fact, there are almost no democracies today. There are lots of republics. In particular, the US constitution guarantees a republican form of government to each of the States.

        You are correct, of course, that the very definition of democracy is "discussing politics". But asserting an absolute right to do so while taking someone else's money is not supporting politics, it is supporting theft.

        What I'm pretty sure that the poster was taking about was this attempt to go around the political process (elections, passing laws, winning court cases) in an attempt to impose the moral du jour in society.

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Who vets the vets?

      I think you're confusing moral and legal here, resulting in a very blinkered view of reality.

      It's quite possible for something legal to be immoral and vice-versa. Although morals can be far, far more subjective where the definition of legal is pretty strictly codified.

      But, how does something normally become illegal in the first place? Because sufficient people have decided that it's immoral and have complained about it, driving lawmakers to pass a new bill to make it illegal.

      Businesses withdrawing support from customers over immorality is a part of that. As a supplier you have the right to tell a customer to get stuffed because you don't like what they're doing with your product.

      Would that not be undermining the courts in the world view you've written above?

      Sticking with the US, how does that stack up against the 1A right to freedom of association, and freedom from forced speech?

      Businesses cancelling supply sometimes to comes about because employees have spoken out internally. Can an employee demand that change (and expect to get it)? No. But they should definitely have the right to speak up.

      *That* is what Gitlab is denying here.

  17. Eeep !

    If your code is important to you is GitLab the place to store it?

    Title askes the question.

  18. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    He who pays the fiddler...

    calls the tune. Your employer is paying you to do a job, do your job. Or quit. At least have that much integrity.

    I take this code of conduct change to indicate that decisions about whose money to take will be made by senior management, thank you very much.

    Of course, with stock options, employees have the feeling of ownership. Except that owning 1/100000'th of a company should not count for very much at all.

    1. BGatez Bronze badge

      Re: He who pays the fiddler...

      Or, stand up with your fellows for what's right and change that stinking fish's head

  19. Blackjack

    The 2020s will be the new 1980s

    New submarine, caviar, seven star heaven, I think I won't stop until I get to eleven.

  20. Jedit
    Coat

    "it won't ban potential customers on "moral/value grounds,""

    How is this news? Hosting gits is their mission statement.

  21. mergerequest

    The GitLab Handbook is a living document, and the policy outlined in this article has already been modified at the request of GitLab employees and approved by the CEO.

    https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/merge_requests/32628/diffs

    https://about.gitlab.com/company/strategy/index.html#customer-acceptance

  22. holmegm Bronze badge

    If only we lived in democracies and there were some political movement that disgruntled tech employees could pragmatically support that had issues with China too, for the very same reasons that they do. I'm sure they'd get right on board?

  23. John Savard Silver badge

    As for IBM

    I reat that famous book about IBM, from cover to cover.

    The facts it recounted - with one minor exception - showed that IBM had done everything in its power to prevent misuse of its equipment and technology by the Nazis.

    The way the book tried to spin the things, of course, told a different story, but because apparently the writer was careful to ensure his facts were accurate, the spin didn't conceal the truth, which was obvious from the book's very own pages.

    The exception? Apparently IBM did take steps to cover up the use of punched cards of the IBM style - illegally - by the Nazis in the operation of the concentration camps, to avoid an undeserved hit to its image. That was the only thing in that whole book that IBM did that could be construed as anything but exemplary corporate conduct.

    Read the book, but while you're reading, pay attention to the facts, not the emotions the writer is trying to stimulate.

  24. BGatez Bronze badge

    The trump sensibility writ large- yay...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bring Nazis into it?

    The article states:

    "If you can see how people might respond to IBM, infamous for providing technology that helped the Nazis in World War II, saying, "Who has time to look into the source of this hard German currency?" you can imagine how GitLab's policy amendment has been received."

    It really is a bit over the top to make that sort of comparison, surely? In any case, the article linked to:

    https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/1388.wss

    makes the point that it was IBM's German subsidiary which was doing business in Germany back in pre WWII Germany, and once the Nazis took over and started the war, just like the rest of the German economy, it didn't have any option but to go along with things. IBM in the USA doesn't seem to have had much to do with that.

    I do hope El Reg's moderators prove thick-skinned enough to allow this fairly anodyne comment to appear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why bring Nazis into it?

      Disagreement with the SF "tech" mob is nazism now.

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