Since writing "It's All Connected"
almost a month ago, I haven't had much to say about GamerGate; it seems like everything's been said and the people who should be listening are refusing to.
Tonight, though, I do want to add something. On Twitter, whump
linked to this pro-GamerGate article by Georgina Young
. The article is entirely unremarkable except for one thing: it appears on Mozilla's Open Standard blog
. Unlike Planet Mozilla
, Open Standard's messaging is that it is a blog curated by Mozilla, and Mozilla is responsible for any editorial choices.
By choosing to present the issue of whether women should be purged from the video game industry as if it has two sides, Mozilla is legitimizing the abuse of women and actively participating in the creation of a hostile environment for women in software.
Moreover, as solarbirdy pointed out
, Open Standard almost gave Eron Gjoni -- the abusive stalker who launched the GamerGate harassment campaign back in August as revenge against his ex Zoe Quinn -- a platform to continue perpetrating his abuse. Gjoni has admitted that he started GamerGate in order to defame and abuse Quinn
This might be more surprising to me if not for what happened back in September when I filed a Bugzilla bug report about GamerGaters' use of Mozilla's Etherpad installation -- basically, a public pastebin -- to coordinate their attacks. Mozilla runs an open, unauthenticated Etherpad server at etherpad.mozilla.org (e.m.o.) -- the e.m.o. home page contains the following disclaimer: "Mozilla systems and collaborative tools are intended for use by the Mozilla community for Mozilla related work and subject to web site terms and conditions at Legal Notices
." I expected that -- since coordinating Gamergate was obviously not Mozilla-related, and the people using it for that were not members of the Mozilla community -- the content would be swiftly deleted.
, in the same way that Github swiftly deleted a repository used by Gamergaters.
The contents of Bugzilla issue 1063892 are private, visible only to me (as the bug reporter) and Mozilla staff. But here's the gist of it: several Mozilla staff concurred that it was not an option to remove the content from their Etherpad server without consulting their legal team. This is puzzling, since most other companies I'm familiar with would not need to consult their legal teams to remove consent that constituted an abuse of company resources. When a member of the Mozilla legal team asked, "does the existence of these mopads have any negative consequences to the company?", multiple Mozilla employees answered this question "no" -- that is, they don't believe that it hurts Mozilla's reputation to provide free Web hosting for a harassment campaign. Jake Maul, a member of the Mozilla ops team who the bug was assigned to, elaborated:
If Mozilla removes this content (without any legal requirement to do so), without a policing system in place to remove other non-Mozilla content, we open ourselves up to the claim of being biased. This is not a Mozilla issue. By removing content (without law or policy protecting us), we potentially make it one.
If someone can point to specific lines of pads that infringe specific parts of the Mozilla CoC (or other suitable document), then IMO that drastically lowers the bar to removing these pads because we can easily point to why the pad was removed. For instance, we could remove the pad and then create a new one with the same name containing a link to the relevant document to explain why it was removed.
I'd personally be much more at ease about removing content if someone can show me where in the pads the harassment is happening. They're large, and much of what I've skimmed seems like links to other places and (without following every link) I'm not sure the stuff hosted on our servers constitutes harassment. If it doesn't, then what reason do we have to remove it?
In case it seems like I'm supporting harassment, let me be clear: all I want is a good solid leg to stand on before we employ the banhammer. Mozilla has had plenty of bad PR this year, and I don't want to add to it with a claim about censorship, "hating gamers", or "supporting misguided Social Justice Warriors". If we get our ducks in a row first, we can (hopefully) avoid any negative fallout.
Jake seemed to be under the misapprehension that Mozilla -- a private company -- requires some sort of law that specifically justifies them using their property in the way that they choose. In fact, Mozilla is free to delete any content from their servers, for any reason that they choose, just like every other private company (an exception is common carriers
like your ISP or the phone company; Mozilla is not a common carrier).
In response to Jake's comment, I wrote:
I'm afraid I don't see how Mozilla will be hurt by criticism from people who self-identify as opponents to social justice.
No one addressed this comment. In any case, the legal team's final response was:
Jake: please take down only the specific etherpads that were reported in this bug. The basis for removal is that these reported pads: (1) do not relate to the Mozilla community and (2) contain objectionable content. The combination of both us why we're requesting a takedown.
Moving forward, we're recommending against active searching of public pads using keywords. Instead, our position is that we'll consider any specific reported pads and decide on a case by case basis if there is a basis for removal. We feel this is the best way to retain and encourage the positive uses of public pads that can be used by Mozillians and non-Mozillians (e.g. teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc.). This approach also means that, when pads are being used for questionable purposes and this is reported to us, we'll examine and remove public pads based on the specific situation. There are many interpretations and perspectives of what is objectionable content. The legal team assists in making this call.
Please file a legal bug if there are more reports of objectionable mopads. You can file here: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/enter_bug.cgi?product=Legal
In this gamer situation, if more reports come in regarding objectionable pads, we can evaluate and discuss if further action is needed and what that might look like.
It's unclear to me how removing harassing content interferes with use of Mozilla resources by "teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc." I am also genuinely unsure what kind of backlash Maul and several other Mozilla staff members feared from people who don't like "social justice warriors", but in any case, it seems to me like if Mozilla is going to get out of the business of standing up for social justice on the Web, they should probably let their donors and volunteers know that.
You could, of course, argue that all of this is evidence of Mozilla's collective cowardice in the face of a genuine threat to the open Web, but I would argue that organizational cowardice in the face of coordinated bullying is indistinguishable from support for those bullies. Unlike the many women who Gamergate attacked -- with the help of free Web hosting from Mozilla, at least temporarily -- Mozilla is a wealthy organization with the resources to resist harassment and attacks. Instead, Mozilla has chosen to walk a path paved with false equivalences and bogus free speech concerns -- a path that ultimately leads to a Web where only people with the resources and social standing to resist or evade harassment and doxxing can make their voices heard.
If you support Mozilla but can't feel safe supporting an organization that presents attacks on women as just another side in a debate, I encourage you to let them know
Since at least one person has complained that the quotes are out of context, here's the entire PDF of the Bugzilla thread
, with innocent parties' names redacted.