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Putting our core values to work: a letter to our community

September 14, 2020 by David Darmanin

Dear Hotjar community,

We founded Hotjar back in 2014 with a mission to democratize user analytics and feedback. While a lot has changed since then, we’re proud that our product vision today still speaks to our mission: “to give businesses of all sizes the insights they need to create digital experiences their users love.”

We’ve built Hotjar to be accessible to everyone in a self-serve fashion, and with little to no friction anyone can get value from Hotjar within minutes. This has enabled us to serve hundreds of thousands of websites, the overwhelming majority of which we are proud to have the pleasure of calling our customers.

Like almost all self-service technology companies, we neither police nor approve Hotjar accounts as they are created, and we will never do so, but it was recently brought to our attention that the Trump-Pence campaign is using Hotjar on their online merchandise shop. Upon further investigation, we found that the Hotjar account, which is managed by the Republican National Committee, also includes other GOP-related websites. We truly appreciate our community holding us accountable and we cherish the opportunities to learn and do better, and in this blog post we are going to explain and elaborate on our response.

First, let’s start by looking at the kind of company we are today, and who we want to be tomorrow. One of our core values is to “work with respect.” And it’s not just a slogan—our performance reviews evaluate each Hotjar team member against how they exemplify our core values in every 6-month performance cycle.

We pride ourselves in being diverse and inclusive, and for standing against racism and injustice. We are proud to have a team situated in 24 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa, whose voices continually shape how our culture evolves. We do everything in our power to truly live by our values, of which we never want to be in a position to compromise for any reason.

From our approach to Privacy to our support for causes like Black Lives Matter and setting one of our company objectives to fight the climate crisis, we continually push ourselves to do what we believe is right.

And that means following our hearts and our convictions, even (and especially) when it’s difficult.

Now let’s talk about the situation at hand: the fact that we learned the Trump-Pence campaign merchandise website uses Hotjar. Donald Trump has said racist and hateful things as the evidence that anyone can access on the internet shows, as well as has taken a number of actions that have targeted marginalized groups. “Make America Great Again” has become a rallying call of far-right groups across the United States, and statements like “Build the wall and crime will fall” might not be linguistically racist, but they have become contextually racist.

The campaign and the Republican party today stand behind a candidate who has made statements that promote racism, division, and discrimination. Therefore, we believe that the values displayed by this organization as a customer of Hotjar are clearly not aligned with our values as a company, and in the spirit of living our value of working with respect, we have decided to take action.

We have updated our Acceptable Use Policy to disallow not only sites that directly promote or condone hate, but also sites that promote or support organizations, platforms, or people that promote or condone such hate.

In applying this updated Acceptable Use Policy and through our own internal investigations, we have consequently decided to stop allowing the use of Hotjar on the Trump-Pence campaign merchandise website, as well as the GOP as the account owner. We believe that this decision is true to our values, and to our team who in turn support our customers and our community.

Important note: while we can deactivate the account on our end and stop data collection, it is up to the account owner to take steps to remove our tracking script from their website(s).

We recognize that this decision may bring us some backlash, and it may result in divided reactions among our community—but we’re willing to put ourselves in an uncomfortable position to stand by our values, and the promise we made to our team to uphold these values.

We understand that there are many honest people across political aisles at both the individual and organizational level who don’t condone hate, racism, or discrimination—in fact, we are proud that this perspective is shared within our own team. We have every respect for these individuals, regardless of political party, and we’d like to make it very clear that we would be happy to work with the Republican party in the future, should circumstances change. Similarly, we are also aware that there are political parties and campaigns around the world who are constantly evaluating our product, and we will happily work with anyone who aligns with us against racism and discrimination.

You might be wondering if this is considered an attack on freedom of speech. Our decision to stop working with any customer has no impact on their ability to speak freely or express themselves. When we decide to stop working with a website that violates our Acceptable Use Policy, it is simply a decision to not participate in amplifying a message that contradicts our values.

We also acknowledge that there are many “what about...” questions that our community might ask as a result of this decision. The truth is that we simply don’t have all the answers, and we don’t believe it is productive to contemplate endless hypothetical questions, which often divert from the issue at hand. There are many people and organizations who’ve said or done inappropriate, offensive, and even illegal things, but holding ourselves to an impossible standard of trying, in one go, to make a decision on every social issue, politician, or organization would paralyze us and stop us from taking action when it is most needed.

Another one of our values is “building trust with transparency.” In living that value, we are sharing with you, our community, that we have earned €780.00 in revenue so far from the Hotjar account in question, and will put that money to good use:

We will donate the full €780.00 (roughly $920) we earned, plus an additional €50,000 (roughly $59,000) of our own, to fight racism and injustice. Back in 2017, we pledged 1% of Hotjar’s revenue to giving back to our community, and this donation will come out of that fund.

We generally don’t disclose publicly any information about accounts we terminate, but in this case we feel we owe it to our community to explain where we stand in such a polarizing time. We also want to take the opportunity to invite other tech companies to honor their values and take a firm stance against hate and racism.


Thank you,

David Darmanin, CEO

Mohannad Ali, CPTO

Editor's note: upon a member of our community pointing out that the phrase 'call a spade a spade' has racist connotations, we have removed the phrase from this letter. Thank you for holding us accountable.

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David Darmanin

David is the CEO and founder of Hotjar. Before founding Hotjar, he spent a decade generating hundreds of millions of dollars in growth consulting some of the web’s most sophisticated companies. Founded in 2014, Hotjar is run 100% remotely by 90 team members across 20 countries and is used on over 500,000 sites worldwide.