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Planet Mozilla controversy

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Like many open source projects Mozilla has a blog aggregator that aggregates postings from some Mozilla employees and project volunteers. The aggregator is known as planet.mozilla.org or just p.m.o.

In March 2012, a debate about appropriate uses of p.m.o. began when Gerv Markham (a Mozilla employee who uses the title "Governator", working on project governance, licensing and trademarks) posted a link to an anti-marriage-equality petition on his blog, which was syndicated to Planet Mozilla.

Many Mozilla employees objected on the grounds that some of them were required to read p.m.o. as part of their job responsibilities, and this meant being subjected to discriminatory content that they could not opt out of seeing. The initial response from p.m.o.'s project leaders was one that advocated absolute free speech, alleging that any content was acceptable on Planet Mozilla.

As part of the subsequent discussions, J. Paul Reed pointed out the disconnect between the vigorous discussions that were going on about Planet Mozilla, and the treatment of Brendan Eich's Proposition 8 donation as an (in his words) 'open “secret”' within Mozilla. The discussion of Eich's (superficially unrelated) action foreshadowed Eich's appointment, then near-immediate resignation as Mozilla CEO two years later.

After this, a lengthy sequence of discussions on Mozilla's internal-but-public mozilla.governance newsgroup ensued, often detouring from discussion of policy into contributors' personal opinions about LGBTQ people. The eventual outcome was the adoption of Mozilla's Community Participation Guidelines, which erase power dynamics and create a false equivalence between "exclusionary activities" that are oppressive (like Markham's original post) and "exclusionary activities" that defend oppressed groups against oppression:

Some Mozillians may identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Mozilla. When this is the case:



(a) support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Mozilla activities. (b) support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities should not be expressed in Mozilla spaces. (c) when if (a) and (b) are met, other Mozillians should treat this as a private matter, not a Mozilla issue.


As Tim Chevalier pointed out, if interpreted strictly, these guidelines forbid Mozilla mailing lists from being used to announce a supportive event or group that centers the needs of women or POC in tech.

Further reading Edit

  • Tim Chevalier, "Hate speech is not free speech" (March 2012)
  • Tim Chevalier for geekfeminism.org, "A Problem With Equality" (September 2012)
  • Christie Koehler, "The Overdue Need for Community Conduct Standards at Mozilla" (March 2012)
  • Addie Beseda, "When Geeks Have Empathy Problems" (March 2012)
  • J. Paul Reed, "A Stroll Through Planet Mozilla History" (March 2012)
  • Gavin Sharp, "Discussing offensive blog posts" (March 2012)
  • David Mandelin, "A Personal Message" (April 2012)
  • Planet Mozilla module owners, "Concerns with Planet Content" (March 2012)
    • Comments:
    • Lukas Blakk: "It seems like we protect our visual brand identity more than we protect what the Mozilla values appear to be when we refuse to set a minimum code of conduct for participation in our community. Who are we protecting when we do that? Who’s life is enriched by the inclusion of posts that support bigoted points of view?"
    • Matej Novak: " Gerv is entitled to have and spread his opinions (I will fight for anyone’s right to do that any day), but not necessarily in a work environment. Your employer also says you have to wear clothes to the office and that you have to get your work done instead of playing video games and surfing porn all day. That’s not censorship and neither is this."
    • Justin Scott: "To others, the post made them feel unwelcome and demeaned, and broke their trust in Planet Mozilla and/or Mozilla. Please respect that and don’t dismiss them simply because you don’t see it that way."
    • Sander van Lambalgen: 'This is about community standards. Do we want to be an _inclusive_ community, promoting diverseness, where there’s certain things that are “just not okay”?'
    • Graydon Hoare: 'You do not get to ignore making content policy on a website you operate. If you claim to have no policy against homophobic abuse, you’re actually stating “our policy is to accept and endorse homophobic abuse”. If that is the policy of any public communication channel of Mozilla, I’m embarrassed to be associated with it.'
    • Jason Duell: "There’s a reason workplaces aren’t open free speech zones. And an open source project isn’t fundamentally different. We’re not here to share all aspects of our lives with each other."
    • Henri Sivonen: "Even if Mozilla takes the position that Mozilla is inclusive to people who hold various religious and political views and express them elsewhere, I think it doesn’t follow that Mozilla needs to host a platform for expressing those views. In fact, it seems that hosting such a platform is counterproductive to working together..."

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