Yesterday we said we probably won’t do another story about Tobi Lütke this week. We’re almost sorry.
After the Shopify CEO published his defense of why the Ottawa firm was continuing to allow the alt-right media outlet Breitbart News to use the company’s e-commerce platform to sell its controversial apparel, reactions from the business community have been mixed.
Lütke wrote that while he did not like what Breitbart stands for, removing the company from Shopify’s service would constitute a violation of free speech, an argument that did not satisfy many local concerns.
Centretown bar Union Local 613 announced on Facebook that it would be ending its relationship with Shopify.
“After much consideration we have decided to suspend our relationship with Ottawa based Shopify until such time as they can better articulate their business dealings with Breitbart,” the post read. The bar’s social page said it is “diametrically opposed” to the alt-right media company, and thus could not reconcile these differences based on the company’s current justification.
Ottawa brand strategist Dennis Van Staalduinen spent most of Friday moderating a marketplace of ideas that spawned from his Twitter essay on Lütke’s Breitbart stance, which he believes to be correct but poorly justified.
Among other suggestions, Van Staalduinen tweeted that Shopify would be better to represent its views by donating the proceeds it receives from its dealings with Breitbart to a charity that works against its causes such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
He engaged with creative agency Jack Pine CEO Liam Mooney in tweets, who joined CBC’s Ottawa Morning show to add his voice to the debate.
Buzzfeed News reported that employees within Shopify were also struggling with the company and its CEO’s stance on Breitbart. Buzzfeed quotes anonymous sources that say many Shopify employees were upset to be working for the company as continued to power the alt-right platform’s commerce.
Some employees have called for the company to clarify its stance on hate speech, according to Buzzfeed.
Lutke has defended the decision to serve Breitbart on the basis that as long as the company operates within the law, it can use Shopify’s platform.
Shopify’s terms of service lists 60 categories of businesses that it will not serve, not all of which are strictly illegal. These include: airlines, festival ticket sellers, fortune tellers, and sex shops; alt-right merchandisers are not listed.