Imagine there is a job opening at Facebook. Otherwise attractive and matching my skill set, I still decide not to apply. And why?

There were certain strategies employed by the company (for example, licensing software as open source, but with a catch) that I believe to be unethical in that they show the willingness of certain decision making persons at the head of the company to inflict harm to good willing partners, innocent bystanders and society in general, with the justification that a for-profit company is entitled to any lawful means of profit extraction or value retention, regardless their moral qualification or untaxed externalities, with which I strongly disagree.

(It took me some effort to come up with this formulation, and surely it still is not accurate, but I hope the meaning gets through.)

  • Can I say that my inaction in this case is an instance of holding the Facebook executives morally responsible for their actions?
  • Or, if I could not (say because it is boastful), could someone else say that about me?
  • If so, then could I have applied and still say the same?
  • If neither, then what other action on my side would constitute holding those executives responsible?

Some things I am considering are that:

  • I am sacrificing my immediate self interest, and there is no apparent cause other than the stated.
  • There is some harm to the company as well. If everyone did the same as I, the company would have to cease their questionable practices or dissolve.

Is this line of reasoning overall correct?

P.S. There seems to be some misunderstanding of the essence of my question that I would like to clarify. My question is chiefly not about the ethical evaluation of a specific strategy of the company, but the ethical evaluation of my choice of action on the premise of my holding the specified belief.

  • i can't tell if this is off-topic or not... are you sure you don't want to be on workplace SE?
    – L_Church
    May 15, 2018 at 12:11
  • 2
    Define "Hold someone responsible".
    – MichaelK
    May 15, 2018 at 13:01
  • @L_Church Do you think Socrates would have judged this to be off-topic? May 15, 2018 at 13:17
  • @MichaelK By asking this question, I am trying to narrow down on the meaning of this element of common speech. May 15, 2018 at 13:19
  • @IgnatInsarov So you are trying to find the definition by example? Eh... that is kind of a backwards way of doing it. Especially so since you will not reach any kind of exhaustive definition that way.
    – MichaelK
    May 15, 2018 at 13:25

2 Answers 2


I don't think you were 'inactive' in this situation. I take 'inaction' to be a failure to act when one could usefully intervene or had an obligation to intervene. That's its typical context of application. The chances of your altering company policy even if you had joined would have been negligible to zero. But if you had joined you would have been associating yourself with and tacitly condoning the company's policies - in that sense complicit in them. Through not applying you dissociated yourself from the company and its policies - and that is so whether your decision was known only to yourself or also by other people. Dissociation is action.

  • Thank you! I did not think of it from this point of view. May 17, 2018 at 5:07

I notice they almost immediately backed down (within a week or so); went to back to MIT with React 16.

I am not sure there is a serious philosophical question here. There are a few concerns you seem to have with a software license. This quibble was resolved so swiftly it seems somewhat picayune to me. But perhaps React’s intellectual property was worth defending; although notice it doesn’t seem like it is fundamentally different than similar tech like vue, elm, angular. The functional-reactive approach itself dates back decades and so on. Furthermore: the open-source movement is about donation of time and effort, sharing according to terms the donor dictates...

For what it’s worth: I would welcome questions on (e.g.) Stallmanism here. Note we aren’t lawyers; and obviously can’t advise you about practical implications of various licenses. Reviewing their philosophical merits seems opinion-based but with a specific framework in mind could (possibly) be narrow enough.

  • Thank you, Joseph. But my question is not exactly about sofrware licenses. It is about me having or not having a higher moral ground and my ability to embody, if not incite, civil protest. License is there merely as an example. By the way, they backed down with their license exactly in the wake of an Internet scale civil protest. May 16, 2018 at 5:27

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