Next week marks my sixth-month anniversary as a Mozilla employee. I have been planning to write a post to mark the occasion and to share with everyone what an awesome (albeit challenging) experience it is working at such an innovative, mission-driven organization.
However, recent events on Plant Mozilla (see Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech and Concerns with Planet Content for context) compel me to speak to another issue first: The urgent need for the Mozilla community to work together to develop, implement and be held accountable to standards for participation.
The syndication on Planet Mozilla of discriminatory content and ensuing discussion is just one symptom of a larger, systemic problem. The greater issue is that we have failed to set forth guidelines about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior within our community. We have operated far too long under the false assumption that individuals can do this entirely on their own.
Frequently, this failure to put forth standards manifests as slightly less than civil interactions. I’ve also seen it displayed in the offhand dismissal of other’s ideas or needs. Most recently, on Planet Mozilla, I’ve seen it threaten and alienate those contributors who are queer.
As Mozilla grows in scope and size and we facilitate more and more in-person events, the harm incurred due to the absence of community standards will increase. No one should have to endure an assault or harassment at an event we host before we take action on this matter. Already, there are a number of us who question whether or not we are safe at Mozilla and if our contributions are valued.
Setting and enforcing norms is a usual and necessary function of community. Our community managers and long-time contributors have abdicated their responsibility to us by not ensuring such norms are set, and in some cases by actively blocking progress on this matter. It’s time for that to change.
Will it be easy? No, of course not. Some will be unhappy at any implied restrictions on speech or behavior. The point is not to make everyone happy. The point is to provide clear guidelines so that everyone can operate within a common context and to provide a support structure to those who need it.
To be absolutely clear: the heart of this recent issue is not what type of content should be syndicated on Planet Mozilla, and it is not about differences of opinion. Focusing our discussion solely on Planet Mozilla is a distraction.
The issue is that Mozilla resources (the server and bandwidth that provides Planet) were utilized to attack a vulnerable group. This group includes Mozilla employees and contributors and it made it harder for them to do their jobs. That they were attacked using Mozilla resources is what is unacceptable and needs to be addressed directly through the implementation of community standards. Indeed, part of the process of developing these standards will be to make it clear that attacking vulnerable groups is unacceptable.
Community standards are not about limiting anybody’s free speech, but about limiting people’s ability to make their coworkers feel unsafe and unwelcome without consequence or accountability.
Fortunately, we have a lot of resources to draw upon in developing our community standards. Several groups not unlike our own have already done so: Ubuntu Code of Conduct, Citizen Code of Conduct, Drupal Code of Conduct, Wikimedia Foundation Friendly Space Policy.
Let’s get to work.
1) I’m not going to publish any more comments related only to Tim’s comments and whether or not they would violate a Code of Conduct. I’m also not going to facilitate any more conversation about whether or not Gerv’s recent post on Planet Mozilla was discriminatory. There’s been plenty of back and forth on those topics in other forums and I’d like to have a more productive conversation here. If you want to talk about how we can work together to develop a code of conduct for Mozilla, then that’s fine.
2) To whomever submitted the anonymous comment (from a Mozilla IP): calling someone here an asshole is never going to be acceptable, so don’t even try.