Online protests as Condoleezza Rice joins board

Critics say the former secretary of state is a poor match for Dropbox, a startup that hosts users' business and personal data.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 11, 2014 1:32PM
Credit: © Mark Blinch/Reuters

Caption: Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza RiceBy Shira Ovide and Douglas Macmillan, The Wall Street Journal

Dropbox is the latest company to run afoul of Silicon Valley's political orthodoxy.

The file-sharing startup Wednesday added former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (pictured) as a director to "help us expand our global footprint."

Quickly, an Internet protest sprang up to encourage Dropbox users to boycott the service unless the San Francisco startup forces her off its board. A new website, "Drop Dropbox," said Rice's role in helping set U.S. policies in Iraq, and in promoting U.S. intelligence agencies' surveillance policies, made her a poor fit for a startup that "we are trusting with our most important business and personal data."

Dropbox declined to comment Thursday. A spokeswoman for Rice, now a professor at Stanford University, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

A post about the Dropbox petition on Hacker News, a popular website for Valley tech types, had about 900 comments as of 4 p.m. PT Thursday. Topsy, which tracks keywords used on social-media services, said there were nearly 3,000 Twitter posts in the past day using the "DropDropbox" hashtag -- about as many mentions on Twitter as Crimea.

Many of the posts were critical of Dropbox's alliance with Rice, but others said the protesters were unfairly bullying people who support Rice or share her political views.

The flap is the latest example of blowback when the technology community's libertarian, progressive image of itself comes into conflict with individual views or corporate efforts to build bridges to those with other views.

Most recently, the CEO of Mozilla, the organization overseeing the Firefox Web browser, stepped down last week after employees and board members criticized a donation he had made to support a 2008 ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California. Critics of the former CEO said his views on gay marriage were incompatible with Silicon Valley's historically permissive attitudes.

Efforts by Google (GOOG) and others to reach out to conservatives also have provoked criticism. Last year some Silicon Valley backers of, an organization established by Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech executives to push for immigration overhaul, pulled out of the group in part over' support of conservative politicians.

The Dropbox controversy comes as Rice has been increasingly active in Silicon Valley. Her consulting firm with two other Bush administration officials, Stephen Hadley and Robert Gates, has worked with data-storage startup Nutanix and cybersecurity firm Vectra. The firm says it can help companies "develop and implement their international strategic plans and help them expand in major emerging markets."

Bill Anastas, a Dropbox user who works at a digital-design agency in the Los Angeles area, said he thought the company showed poor judgment in appointing a "polarizing" person as a board member.

"I don't have to agree or disagree with the ideologies of the people that make the things that I use," he said, "but when those ideologies come to the surface and they go against my thinking, it's difficult for me to separate the company from the ideology and continue as usual."

More from The Wall Street Journal

Apr 11, 2014 2:56PM
Why is it that someone's political beliefs makes them the target for ridicule and boycott? Rice is an extremely intelligent person who has a vast knowledge of the world and how other countries work and relate to the US. She is an excellent choice and will expand an American company. That is what should be important, not who she used to work for! 
The liberals always scream tolerance if it involves their cause or beliefs, however they CHOSE not to tolerate the a conservative or Christian beliefs. Shame on them.
Apr 11, 2014 2:53PM
This is so immature ....great state woman...I'd hire her in a minute  
Apr 11, 2014 2:56PM
The Irony is her former position with the government actually makes her a solid choice for a start-up offering data protection services, which the protestors are actually ignoring.  No one in the current regime would be a good candidate as this administration can't even build a secure website. 
Apr 11, 2014 2:58PM
I would support her if she ran for President of the United States!
Apr 11, 2014 1:54PM

Ah...   So anything with democrats should be boycotted?   That can be arranged.

Apr 11, 2014 3:00PM
The lady is intelligent.  Every board needs a diversity of intelligent people.  The worst boards specialize in groupthink and make poor decisions.  She will really add good value to any board.  Anyone who objects to her being on the board is just trying to grab a headline.
Apr 11, 2014 2:16PM
  Mozilla, Dropbox, Goog, Fb. move to Texas as some companies have, leave Silicon Valley in the dust were it should be and very well may be going if it continues this direction.
Apr 11, 2014 3:01PM
Great woman, great mind....the Democrats are afraid of these attributes...They do  not understand the concept of thinking, without being told what to think!
Apr 11, 2014 2:58PM
WOW!! For calling themselves "progressives" they sure do love bringing up the past. Do this country a favor and keep moving forward over a cliff libs. The inventor of the internet , Al Gore, would be ashamed of you!! sarc
Apr 11, 2014 2:56PM
Do they oppose her because........wait for it.........she is Black?
Apr 11, 2014 3:00PM

This is brought to you by the progressive's totalitarian state. 

Apr 11, 2014 2:59PM
Further proof that liberalism is much like the main street in 'Blazing Saddles' - filled with idiots surrounded by a wobbly facade with nothing behind it.
Apr 11, 2014 2:57PM
Apr 11, 2014 2:56PM
Don't you think somebody like that would know how to keep our data secure? To my memory, I don't remember her being involved in certain security issues like SOME people we know.

Apr 11, 2014 3:03PM
"Tolerate us (read BOW DOWN TO OUR WAY) or we won't tolerate you!"... cried every left wing nut ever
Apr 11, 2014 2:59PM
This lady has forgot more than these people know.
Apr 11, 2014 3:01PM
"libertarian, progressive image"  Sounds to me like a bunch of closed minded bigots that have no consideration for anyone who deviates in any way from the party line..
Apr 11, 2014 3:06PM
What is wrong with you people?....Condoleezza Rice was one of the best Secretaries of State this country ever had....alot better than Hillary ....   smart & classy..... vs. devious & trashy

Apr 11, 2014 2:55PM
The real reason they are protesting Condoleeza Rice is.... racism!
Apr 11, 2014 3:00PM
The tolerant Left. She should announced she is gay
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