To the Anonymous Mozilla Member Making Threats on My Blog

Update (31 December 2016): This person was identified easily via their IP address, which matched that of one used regularly by a Mozilla staff member. After a protracted effort on my part, our head of HR assured me the person had been appropriately reprimanded. (As was I, incidentally, for not being able to “work things out” with this person.) I left Mozilla in August 2015. The staff member who threatened me, on the other hand, was rewarded with a promotion and now manages a team of seven people. 

I’m not going to publish any of your comments, so you might as well stop leaving them. Also, you’ve been reported to Mozilla leadership.

I will, however, share this bit with everyone here so they understand what kind of crap I and others receive simply for speaking out about the issues that are important to us. writes (emphasis mine):

Or, to put it another way, we don’t want you two around, really. You’ve spent months creating drama and attacking anyone who disagrees with you in the most passive-aggressive “I’m a poor victim” fashion.

Feel free to find the door to more perfect folks who agree with your politics and allowed means of expression.


  1. Nubeluke says:

    Huh? “Making oneself a victim” is attacking others? What strange logic, but then I guess it’s not more strange than caring much about how certain things are named (” _they_ can have equal rights, it should just have a different name”).

            • Well, next time consider that people in marginalized groups think about things just as much as you do. Do you know what it’s like to be told not once, but *hundreds* of times to be told “Don’t let it get you down!” in response to abuse? To try, and find that being abused still hurts anyway? To notice that the people saying “Don’t let it get you down!” are never telling abusers “Don’t abuse people”?

  2. Robert O'Callahan says:

    Ugh, that is awful :-(.

    You said “anonymous”, but it sounds like you know who they are? I hope you do. You show admirable restraint by not naming them.

    • Christie Koehler says:

      No, I don’t know who they are. All I have is the fake email they provided and an IP address. If I did know their identity, I would probably name them.

  3. Jeff Walden says:

    Is the person actually a “Mozilla member”, whatever that means? It could well be someone pretending, or someone whose involvement is so tangential that the name implies too much. If the comment is anonymous and its author can’t be tracked down, it’s a distinct possibility. This is just to say that there’s an general assumption being made about the people that make up Mozilla here, which won’t always be true. And to the extent that reflects poorly on other Mozillians (quite unfairly, I would note; none of us is responsible for one anonymous person’s opinion — and that’s true regardless of its content or objectionability or lack of it), I would err on the side of assuming the best of people whom you don’t know to have some responsibility for an anonymously-offered opinion.

    That said, I’ll more than agree that “we don’t want you two around, really” is out of line here. And I’ll say it despite being pretty sure we disagree on a number of different issues implicated in this entire snafu.

    • Christie Koehler says:

      Given that the person provided a fake email address and name, I have no way of verifying their identity or their affiliation.

      However, we have no evidence to suggest they aren’t affiliated with Mozilla, other than a desire to believe that this sort of thing can’t happen within our community. Ultimately, I don’t think the person’s level of involvement matters all that much. Conduct standards should apply to all those who participate, even just tangentially.

      Also, I’ve made no assumptions in this post about the people that make up Mozilla, nor have I made any statements that the poor behavior of an anonymous commenter should be used to judge all of the Mozilla community.

      However, I do think Mozilla, by not adopting and enforcing standards for conduct, has created an environment where abusive behavior is sometimes tolerated and allowed to perpetuate. If the anonymous commenter is an integral part of the community, there is a good chance that my blog is not the first forum in which they’ve demonstrated this type of behavior.

      Also, your request that I take responsibility for abusive comments posted to my blog is absurd. Responsibility lays with the perpetrator, not the target.

      • “Also, your request that I take responsibility for abusive comments posted to my blog is absurd.”

        Lack of commas and an odd word order make it a bit unclear, but that’s not what he’s saying.

        “I would err on the side of assuming the best of people whom you don’t know to have some responsibility for an anonymously-offered opinion.” => “You don’t know Mozillians have some responsibility for this anonymously-offered opinion. Therefore, I would err on the side of assuming the best of them.”

        He’s talking about the responsibility of Mozillians (or not) for the anonymous comments, not your responsibility for them. HTH.

  4. Jeff Walden says:

    Regarding “other than a desire to believe that this sort of thing can’t happen”, that’s not the reason I would assume the best of people. (It’s also not evidence one way or another.) It’s simply that assuming the best of people until they demonstrate otherwise aids in community. When someone contributes to a newsgroup discussion and I don’t recognize their name, I assume they mean well, and care about Mozilla’s best interests. I may have no particular reason to assume that; offensive trolls visit every community. But by assuming that, I hopefully remain more welcome to their participation in the community. As they post, I’m free to re-evaluate that conclusion. But I think it’s a baseline I should start from, before thinking they might just be there to waste people’s time.

    Regarding “made no assumptions”, okay, fair enough. I would have put scare quotes around “Anonymous Mozilla Member” to make clear that the categorization is self-styling and might well be exaggerated (or even lying, but that’s not to assume it is). I guess it’s the lack of quotes around it that was what made me sensitive to the point.

    Regarding “your request that I take responsibility for abusive comments posted to my blog”: that was absolutely not what I meant to communicate, and I apologize for not being clear enough. What I meant was this. If one interprets “Mozilla member” as to some small extent implying something noxious about the Mozilla community (and, properly or not, that’s what the lack of scare quotes implied to me) — that is, by “reflecting poorly” upon them. And if that implication is attributed to the actions of this one bad egg (who we assume for the sake of argument is sufficiently involved to deserve the “Mozilla member” nomination). Then it might be interpreted (properly or not) as implying that other Mozilla members let this one bad egg’s prior offensive opinions go unchecked in the past — which would of course be noxious. This would imply they were fractionally “responsible” for the anonymous commenter’s thinking it okay to post his comment trying to reject your (meant plurally) participation in the Mozilla community. And that might even be the case if those other Mozilla members were totally unaware of this one bad egg’s past offenses, and therefore did not counter them, or call them out. I was saying that if it were me, I would go out of my way to not imply (even by accident) anything noxious about Mozilla members. Does that make the chain of logic clearer? Reasonable people might not be susceptible to every step of it — we all have slightly different standards for evidence and proof when arguing. But it seems at least to me a plausible chain of reasoning.

    So to be clear: I do not “request that [you] take responsibility for abusive comments posted to [your] blog”. That is absolutely an absurd request. I absolutely agree that “Responsibility lays with the perpetrator, not the target.” And I apologize for commenting too quickly, in a way which might be interpreted to the contrary.

    • Jeff Walden says:

      I’m rereading my second-to-last paragraph again, and I think in my attempt to be clearer I might still have muddled things. :-( By ” If one interprets ‘Mozilla member’ as to some small extent implying something noxious about the Mozilla community” I meant “If one interprets your use of the phrase ‘Mozilla member’ as to some small extent implying something noxious about the Mozilla community”. Hopefully that’s at least slightly clearer.

      Sigh, why must precise communication of ideas be so difficult. :-(

      • Jeff, I think the overarching issue is that the events of the past three months mean neither Christie nor I is surprised or shocked that aMozillan could have written this comment. that reflects something seriously wrong. The idea that a colleague would tell me outright that because I’m a gender and sexual minority member who has dignity and self-respect, Mozilla doesn’t need my contributions, should be hard to believe. But it’s not. and to me that’s a bigger issue than the commenter’s identity.

        • Gijs says:

          “The idea that a colleague would tell me…”

          Of course, there is nothing that can be done to fix this. That doesn’t make it less horrible, but a code of conduct won’t help you here. It’ll mean people wouldn’t be allowed to say something like this within the community, but they pretty much already aren’t (I can guarantee you that the equivalent statement Christie found as a comment would not have been tolerated within a public forum, either, even without a code of conduct). Seeing as it’d all be post-facto censorship, there’s little that can be done against anonymous drive-by comments, which is horrible but pretty much the reality of the internet.

          On a deeper level, if you so profoundly mistrust the community as to think it’s waiting to tell you to leave at every possible opportunity, I’m honestly not sure what can be done to fix that, either. Would adopting the (any) CoC suddenly fix this? That seems unlikely to me, as your suggestion about the community’s attitude is about the people, not the formal community as a whole (which quite obviously doesn’t have some kind of policy to the effect of the statement you suggested). But perhaps I misunderstand things…

          • It’ll mean people wouldn’t be allowed to say something like this within the community, but they pretty much already aren’t

            I don’t understand what you mean by this. The entire discussion at hand is about how people have been allowed to say (that is, have said without experiencing any social sanction) things that implicitly tell me and Christie that we’re not welcome here — on Planet Mozilla, on mozilla.governance — and the only difference between those comments and this one is that this one is more honest about its message.


            Censorship is not an appropriate word to describe the process of a community talking about its standards for acceptable behavior (and every community has such standards; Mozilla as a community already has such standards, they just serve to protect only the dominant members). So please don’t muddy the waters by using it; it’s not constructive.

            On a deeper level, if you so profoundly mistrust the community as to think it’s waiting to tell you to leave at every possible opportunity, I’m honestly not sure what can be done to fix that, either.

            I think you may be making the usual mistake of assuming the problem is my mistrust rather than the root cause of it, which is to say, the copious and blatant ways in which a number of community members have demonstrated that they are unsafe people to communicate with (at least if you’re not in a dominant group)?

            • Gijs says:

              and the only difference between those comments and this one is that this one is more honest about its message.

              This basically equates the posters on and pmo to the asshole who commented on Christie’s blog. I don’t think that’s fair. You’ll note Gerv, for instance, left a comment here saying I think you make an awesome contribution to Mozilla and to Open Source in general, and I’m happy to have you around. I would readily echo that wholeheartedly: I am extremely happy to have both of you around, both for your contributions to OSS and Mozilla, but also to further discussion about this particular topic, which is important.

              censorship was an unfortunate word-choice on my part (sorry!), but the thrust of that paragraph was not about calling something censorship, but about whatever-you-call-it happening after the offending posts have been made. To my knowledge it’s not only technically hard to make NNTP (for m.* newsgroups) use pre-facto moderation, more generally I’m sure that the overall volume of all mozilla-affiliated communication is too large to really consider that.

              Regarding mistrust, I don’t think I’m “making the usual mistake of assuming the problem is [your] mistrust rather than the root cause of it”. I just remember from personal experience that when I was in primary school and the school adopted an anti-bullying code of conduct, that did little to change the ways of the bullies. The US civil rights movement in the 60s doesn’t seem to have fixed racism, either — just the institutionalized variant of it. I think a similar problem arises: you can’t fix a breach of trust, or resentment, or hatred, with rules. Instead, I think outreach and personal engagement, especially since our community is still a lot smaller than most nation states, will be more successful.

              • Gijs says:

                Which, by the way, doesn’t mean I think we shouldn’t have a code of conduct — that’s still important to have a set of ground principles on which to fall back — but rather that we’ll need something more in order to improve the current situation where a number of people feel unwelcome.

              • Of course we need something more than just a code of conduct. But let’s not use the fact that more work is necessary as an excuse to do nothing. I think this is a case where “the perfect is the enemy of the good” is relevant.

                Also, regardless of what Gerv says here, I don’t feel welcome in a place that supports his freedom to use company resources to promote campaigns to limit my civil rights. Actions speak louder.

  5. Sid says:

    This is really sad and disgusting. Please don’t let it get you down, and I hope the person responsible can be identified and shamed.

    Perhaps post their IP publicly?

  6. It looks to me that Christie called this person a “Mozilla Member” because they used the fake email “”. They also write as if they are a member of our community. So I don’t think her characterization is unreasonable.

    This person’s “we” does not include me. I think you make an awesome contribution to Mozilla and to Open Source in general, and I’m happy to have you around.

  7. Laura Thomson says:

    Ugh. I’m sorry, Christie. I always just wonder in situations like this, what kind of person posts something like that? It’s fine to disagree. It’s not fine to be so rude.

    To whoever posted such comments, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the community doesn’t want people like *you* around. Christie is a good person and a valued Mozillian. I’m proud to call her a colleague.

  8. Asa Dotzler says:

    That’s an awful comment that certainly doesn’t reflect my views as a Mozillian.

    Would a Mozilla code of conduct cause there to be fewer ugly anonymous comments like this? If so, how. If not, what’s to be done about ugly anonymous comments like this?

    • Would a Mozilla code of conduct cause there to be fewer ugly anonymous comments like this?

      If it’s backed up with an accountability process, I think so, but the only way to find out is to try it. It’s possible to delay and derail the process forever with “more studies are needed”-type comments.

      If so, how. If not, what’s to be done about ugly anonymous comments like this?

      Well, people could stop making them, refuse to tolerate other people making them, and take active responsibility — especially when referring to those people in more privileged social positions — to build an environment where it’s not acceptable. There is no short answer to this. Books have been written about it, some people make it their full-time job to help organizations do it.

      • (To be clear, when I say “stop making them” I don’t just mean comments like this one by “them”, I mean other comments that also exclude and make people unwelcome, not all of which are anonymous, some of which were made on mozilla.governance and on community members’ blogs. Of course, blogs would not be covered by a code of conduct, but that doesn’t mean people couldn’t voluntarily choose to engage in a process of reflection about whether excluding people based on factors other than merit serves the project’s goals.)

      • Asa Dotzler says:

        What do you mean by “backed up by an accountability process”? Can you say more about how one (or many) holds an anonymous person accountable?

          • Asa Dotzler says:

            In my experience, assholes, anonymous or not, do not require permission to treat people horribly. The less that assholes are tolerated disrespecting others with their names attached, the more they’ll do it anonymously — and probably with more vitriol.

            I’d definitely like a more respectful culture at Mozilla. I was quite concerned/freaked out by the name-and-email-actually-attached threats of physical mutilation that were tossed my way in Bugzilla when I dared to question the sanctity of version numbers in our product. But I’m not sure that a better socialization of “violence is not the answer to feature decisions you don’t like” in the Mozilla community would have stopped that from happening. Assholes are assholes.

            That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be much better off in a lot of ways with a more respectful culture or that we shouldn’t work hard towards that goal. I have my personal doubts, though, that it would actually decrease the incidence of assholery.

            IMO, the way to deal with assholes isn’t to create a better culture, it’s to one at a time ferret them out and get rid of them, one after the other, until they’re all gone.

            • Taryn Fox says:

              A culture without assholes is a better culture, though, and a formalized code of conduct would be another weapon on the side of people trying to get rid of them.

              They need to know they have no support for their views. Not here.

  9. I’m sorry that people actually think its ok to treat you this way. Its shameful.
    I’m also sorry that Mozilla (as a community, legal entity, whatever) doesn’t seem to realize that staying quiet because its politically convenient results in this sort of behavior being tacitly accepted and condoned – even if the individuals who make up the majority of the community or corp/foundation, share other views. It should be the case that Mozilla embraces and leads on issues of discrimination in an open manner, rather than shying away from certain types of politics – because its comfortable and expedient to do so. I’m ashamed that an open and empowering community has such a major setback and lack of vision.

    Discrimination and abuse on the basis of sexual identity (or race or sex,) violate at least 3 points of the Mozilla Manifesto, however, the organization seems loathe to accept such a broad interpretation of the language…
    * The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
    * Individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
    * Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.

    (Admittedly, I’m probably perverting the use of security from the intended meaning to a broader social/political philosophical meaning in the John Locke sense, but here we are.)

    Thank you (and you as well Tim) for standing up against discrimination and intolerance. This type of treatment is personal but the response should not be.

    • Asa Dotzler says:

      “this sort of behavior being tacitly accepted and condoned”

      That’s a load of crap. There’s no acceptance or condoning of this comment anywhere in the Mozilla community, from leadership down to the front lines.

      • Asa, the fact that you feel entitled to say this is an example of the problem we’re facing. You are not the target of the abuse, and yet you feel entitled to say it’s not a problem. Both Mitchell Baker and Gary Kovacs have made public statements condoning homophobic comments by characterizing them as “disagreement” and part of “diversity of opinion”. I’m sorry to have to put it this way, but a place that tolerates “diversity of opinion” about whether I’m human is a place where I’m not welcome.

      • Also, I feel very disrespected by your dismissing Chris’s comment (which is in agreement with my opinion) as “a load of crap” simply because it reflects a perspective you don’t share and evidently don’t want to think about — hearing someone of your stature in Mozilla say this is just one more reason to feel I’m not welcome here.

        • Asa Dotzler says:

          I didn’t dismiss Chris’ comment. I dismissed an excerpt from it which was factually untrue. Some of the sentiment I agree with. The precise words I quoted, in the context of the blog post that Christie wrote, yes, I dismissed that.

      • Christie Koehler says:

        Asa, if you want a more respectful culture at Mozilla, I encourage you to start with yourself and refrain from using phrases like “load of crap” when responding to people.

        It’s not okay for you to dismiss someone’s perspective simply because you don’t share it or don’t want to think about it.

        • Asa Dotzler says:

          Oh I thought about it. It’s horse shit. I haven’t said abuse isn’t a problem (Tim, please don’t put words in my mouth.) It is a problem. I’ve witnessed it. It’s absolutely real.

          But saying that Mozilla (who) condones this anonymous troll’s ridiculous and offensive comments is bs. This entire thread has been the exact opposite of condoning it. It’s been universally condemned.

          When you can point me to someone who is expressing any kind of support for this cowards anonymous attack, I’ll take back the language I’ve used.

          • Christie Koehler says:

            Asa, this is your last warning. Be more respectful in your comments or I will stop publishing them.

            You are missing the larger point by focusing on this one anonymous commenter. He is a symptom of a much larger dysfunction with in Mozilla. One which you continue to demand proof of, even after we offer our experiences over and over again. It’s not our job to convince you of something you can’t or don’t want to see.

            • Asa Dotzler says:

              I don’t share your view that it’s disrespectful to call out inaccurate accusations targeting you and me and the rest of Mozilla.

              I don’t expect to convince you of anything. You clearly don’t want to listen to what I have to say — to the point of denying the actual topic of your own post. If that’s how you want this conversation to go, then I’m happy to be excluded from it.

              “You are missing the larger point by focusing on this one anonymous commenter. ”

              I’d encourage you to re-read the post you made. It is explicitly about this one anonymous comment. To suggest that I’m addressing the wrong problem when your posts talks about nothing other than that specific problem is pretty confusing to me.

              The poster made a comment about the topic of your post — an anonymous attack on you. That was a horrible attack and I condemn it and so has everyone else. The commenter here said that Mozilla condones this specific attack. It’s wrong on its face (you and I are “Mozilla” and neither of us is condoning it, as far as I can tell.) I challenged that and because you don’t like my tone, you want to shut me down.

              If you want to uplevel the conversation to a more general problem, that’s your right and you can ban me for sticking to the topic of the actual post, but you cannot legitimately accuse me of missing the point or focusing on the wrong thing when your entire blog post here is about the anonymous attack and when the commenter I responded to was also talking explicitly about the anonymous attack.

              • Christie Koehler says:

                The conversation has already been “upleveled” by the comments of several others. It is now focused, once again, on the need for a code of conduct at Mozilla, how not having one affects our culture, and the experiences of those from minority groups who try to participate.

                To be clear, I’m not threatening to remove you from the conversation simply because you disagree. I’m doing so because you are adding nothing constructive to this dialog and you are doing so in a very disrespectful manner. I may have to put up with that on Yammer and other Mozilla forums, but I don’t have to put up with that here, on my blog. Want to continue participating? Stop using words like “horseshit” and “bullshit” and stop outright denying the perceptions and experiences of others.

                Bonus points if you stop arguing with us and suppose that there’s a truth to what we’re saying. Work with us, rather than against us.

              • Asa Dotzler says:

                No more reply button at this depth?

                People who share the same goals can argue about them. You, of course, don’t have to listen. It’s your blog. You’ve got earplugs if you want them. If it bothers you to engage me, then don’t. I fear, though, that if we cannot make common cause on as obvious an issue as this because you don’t like my tone, then we’re in for a longer struggle than we’d be if we stayed engaged.

                That being said, I’m unlikely to be convinced that you can have a rational (or even constructive emotional) discussion about an up leveled issue when the top post that triggered the discussion is exclusively about a specific issue. The original post taints the discussion.

                When someone says, for example, “that’s horrible” as a comment under the top level (as opposed to some further nesting) then there’s every reason to assume the person is talking about the top level post and not some other different or expanded issue.

                That’s especially true for someone who hasn’t read all of the comments.

  10. Taryn Fox says:

    I’d just like you to know that you and Tim Chevalier are my heroine and hero now, and that I wish you both luck in getting that code of conduct formalized.

    I’m just really nervous about the thought of getting involved in the Mozilla community now, and I hope that being queer will not be a problem for me if I try to apply to WebFwd.

    • Jeff Walden says:

      There’s no reason whatsoever to be fearful. And that absolutely will not be a problem if you try applying to WebFWD. The behavior described in the original post is a substantial outlier that is not at all representative of the Mozilla community, and as you can see from comments here is universally condemned.

      • Taryn Fox says:

        Where by “universally condemned” you mean “made light of by individuals who don’t have to face this garbage themselves and don’t want to acknowledge the problem, yourself included”. And those are the comments that passed moderation.

        When you’re queer, you can be attacked by any person at any time, to the point where you become a nervous wreck. A space isn’t safe because a white cisdude tells you it is. It’s safe because a) they have rules against hurting you specifically, and b) they take those rules seriously.

        Mozilla fulfills neither criterion.

      • Jeff, why would you say there’s no reason to be fearful about being queer at Mozilla when you haven’t tried it? As a queer person at Mozilla, I think there’s plenty of reason to be fearful. If a friend who was queer wanted to apply for a job at Mozilla, or contribute as a volunteer, I would feel obligated to warn them extensively.

        It’s interesting that the very people who are claiming that emotional/psychological invalidation of queer people isn’t an issue at Mozilla are engaging in it in this comments thread.

        • Asa Dotzler says:

          “It’s interesting that the very people who are claiming that emotional/psychological invalidation of queer people isn’t an issue at Mozilla are engaging in it in this comments thread.”

          Who in this thread is claiming that there isn’t any invalidation at Mozilla.

          I don’t see it. But I also don’t see any invalidation of queer people happening here. I see non-queer people trying to express support in ways that simply aren’t acceptable to you. You don’t have to accept anyone’s kind words. That’s your call. You can even call it invalidation, turning it around and receiving it as an attack rather than an attempt at empathy and comforting..

          I don’t hope to convince you that’s what’s happening because I’ve watched you discuss these topics for a while and I can see that you’re unwilling to engage in constructive conversation, even with people who are genuinely concerned about this very real problem, because they don’t use the right language or approach the problem as you’d like them to. I get it that you are unwilling to have compatriots in this challenge that aren’t as fully enlightened as you or who don’t see things precisely as you do. I think that might even be a reasonable approach for you — depending on your goals. But I also think that’s a shame for our shared cause.

          • (This is, by the way, why I would rather have someone tell me outright “We don’t want you around” — though preferably not anonymously — than hear comments like everything you’ve been saying on this post.)

            • Asa Dotzler says:

              You’re attributing “We don’t want you around” sentiment to me?! Because we don’t agree on something means I want you gone?

              I can’t argue with your perception. I can assert that you couldn’t be more wrong but I’m gonna guess you won’t believe that. Well, the world will keep spinning.


              • Not because we don’t agree, but because in every comment you’ve written on this post, you’ve denied that my own perception of reality could have any validity. That kind of behavior has a name: gaslighting.