Making The Unintended Political Statements

A company uses an open source control and finds that its default options inflame political sensitivities of users:

 My wife is in charge of online donations for a large international relief agency, and she recently received a strongly worded e-mail from the leader of a pro-Israeli group accusing her organization of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and threatening to spread the word among potential Jewish contributors–not a good thing.

I’ll spare you the rant, but the upshot was that we learned that the “country” drop-down menu on one of her organization’s donations pages omits Israel as a country and includes “Palestine.” Among other things, this means that Israelis can’t donate to the organization from these pages.

This isn’t the case on the agency’s own site, but it was the case on the pages for Causes, which puts widgets on social networks like Facebook and MySpace that let members donate to their favorite charities (including my wife’s).

When I got a hold of Sean Parker and Joe Green (the co-founders of Project Agape, which created Causes), they tried to fob me off with a “Thanks, we’ll look into this” response. Not what I was looking for.

I pointed out that this isn’t just any omission and addition. When you omit Israel and add Palestine (which is not even recognized as a country by the United Nations) to a country drop-down menu, you seem to be making a very loaded political statement.

This reiterates two points I’ve made previously:

  • Never trust software (or libraries, or sample code, or snippets, or whatever) that you get from somewhere else.  Always vet it as you would your own code.
  • Be aware of political situations, particularly country names that can change through government change, declarations of independence, or whatnot, and know what message your software sends when you omit some or include some.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

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