React and jQuery give people lung cancer

Jeremy Nagel


Is it ethical to work for a tobacco company? Most people would probably say no but if you’ve ever contributed code to React, Webpack, jQuery, Bootstrap or Modernizr, you have done exactly that.

Philip Morris International’s website uses jQuery and Bootstrap.

British American Tobacco’s site uses jQuery and Modernizr.

Altadis uses React + Webpack.

I personally feel pretty uncomfortable about the idea that any improvements I contribute to open source projects might go towards giving people lung cancer. For that reason, I was thrilled to come across the Do No Harm License (NoHarm) today.

The idea of NoHarm is to prevent software from being used by unethical industries, including tobacco, gambling, people trafficking, slavery, purveyors of hate speech and more. It’s an extension on the BSD 3 license with restrictions on the activities of people/organisations who can legally use the software.

Chris Jensen has written a great article that aims to clear up misconceptions around the intent and likely effectiveness of ethical open source licenses.

I would love to see major open source projects adopt NoHarm (or a similar ethical open source license). Otherwise, the work we contribute is going towards organisations that we probably don’t support.

One concern that may arise is that it could fragment the development community and lead to unethical organisations developing a counter-license that bans renewable energy companies, vegetarians and animal activists from using their software. I would be interested to see the proportion of developers who would side with that license.