clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mozilla's chairwoman says writing about Gamergate was 'a mistake'

New, 131 comments

"The entire leadership team, including me, will be turning our attention to this."

Mozilla is the latest major group to stumble into Gamergate, and it's just realized that this was a terrible idea. As The Daily Dot reported earlier today, The Open Standard — the foundation's recently launched online magazine — has spent the past few days inexplicably mediating the "consumer revolt" against social progressivism and alleged ethics breaches in video games. After publishing a critical article by education writer Audrey Watters, Open Standard found itself in the crosshairs of Gamergate supporters who believed they had been unfairly profiled, including Eron Gjoni, who instigated the movement with an angry essay about game developer Zoe Quinn. As a followup, it posted a rebuttal sympathetic to Gamergate (from a writer who clarifies she is "neutral" on the issue) and published a series of defensive tweets about its decision, saying it was calling for "more voices" and "more action." Even the Firefox Twitter feed got in on the debate, defending Gamergate as an "important issue [that] should be looked at by all sides."

Today, Mozilla decided that getting in the middle of an internet firestorm without a good idea of the context had been, perhaps, unwise. The Open Standard published a vague apology on its site, saying that it had "fueled a conversation that will not have a positive outcome" but "does not support shouting down people that we don't agree with," which in this case is apparently Gamergate supporters. Firefox's Twitter feed issued a similar statement, saying that "Gamergate as a topic does not make sense" for The Open Standard or Firefox to discuss.

But a recent email by Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker, sent to the company's staff and obtained by The Verge, was harsher. "Recent opinion pieces published in The Open Standard about #Gamergate are a mistake, compounded by our follow-up actions," she wrote.

Dear Mozillians,

As the computing environment and online life are changing, Mozilla is changing too. Sometimes this involves moving into new areas, and working with content and information as well as code and products like Firefox and Firefox OS.

It's hard to do. We are making mistakes. Recent opinion pieces published in The Open Standard about #Gamergate are a mistake, compounded by our follow-up actions.

The editorial intent of The Open Standard is to explore the world of open collaboration. It is not intended to represent Mozilla's opinion, but to be an independent platform where we invite people to have discussions around timely topics related to the impact of open systems. #Gamergate as a topic does not make sense for The Open Standard. As a new publication, we are applying our editorial guidelines for the first time. In addition, it's clear that our branding and positioning have not clearly established The Open Standard and Mozilla as separate entities, and we need to do work on that too.

Mozilla needs to do new things, and to empower people to work in new areas. Our standard model is a large delegation of authority. However, we need to stop making mistakes. They are harmful to all the people involved. They suggest Mozilla has an opinion which we don't. They damage our sense of what Mozilla is. They are unfair to all the people who work so hard to build a better vision of tomorrow. And offensive to those concerned about key issues of equality, inclusion and safety.

My take away from this is that our model of distributed authority needs attention. We need to do better here.

The entire leadership team, including me, will be turning our attention to this. We can't stop doing new things. We have to do better.

Mitchell

Mozilla weathered a much larger political upset earlier this year, when CEO Brendan Eich stepped down after less than two weeks, due to protests over a $1,000 donation to the fight against gay marriage in California; at the time, Baker said that Mozilla "prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it." The Open Standard is only a few weeks old, and as the Firefox Twitter takeover shows, it's still strongly associated with Mozilla, which puts the foundation where Adobe and Intel have both been in past months: tangled in a debate that at this point is mostly just a series of shouting matches and quasi-military boycott "operations." When Advertising Age writes up a PSA warning brands not to get involved with something, you might want to at least approach it with extreme caution — something Mozilla admits clearly didn't happen.

Update November 5th, 1:20pm ET: Added Twitter statement from Firefox and information about Eich's resignation, and statement from the author of Open Standard's rebuttal piece.