Mozilla CEO steps down amidst social media outrage

Brenden Eich lead

Earlier this week, the newly appointed CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, stepped down following internet outrage regarding his political views against marriage equality. Mozilla is the maker of the popular internet browser, Firefox. The controversy was sparked shortly after Eich assumed his role as CEO a mere 11 days ago, when Mozilla employees took to twitter and started calling out their new boss’ potential homophobia. Criticism over Eich’s political views were grounded in a six-year-old US$1000 donation that the executive made in support of Prop 8, California’s 2008 effort to ban gay-marriage. Evidence exposing Eich’s donation found its way onto the internet shortly after he assumed office and has since snowballed into a force worthy of resignation, marking one of the first times a CEO steps down on account of cyber outcry.

The controversy heated up last Monday when the internet dating giant, Ok Cupid, asked users to stop utilizing Mozilla software to access their platform. Naturally twitter went wild, persecuting Eich for his personal opinions. Mozilla initially stood by its CEO, releasing a statement to reinforce the company’s inclusive policies, and right of employees and users alike to garner its own opinions. On 3 April Mozilla’s position shifted and Eich stepped down.

Eich’s resignation raises important concerns about freedom of speech and reputation in the digital era. A quick review of Eich’s professional career showcases an incredible amount of success in the technological realm. As one of the co-creators back in 1998, Eich had a long-standing relationship with Mozilla. Additionally, Eich invented JavaScript, an integral component to the development of the web as we know it today. Posing the question: would Ok Cupid endorse a boycott of the internet, in support of marriage equality? Probably not.

Up until this point, Eich’s personal opinions have had[ro; very little impact on his profession. Barring his private donation to Prop 8, nothing in his public record indicates that he was homophobic, nor that he let his views on marriage equality effect his leadership capabilities professionally. On the contrary a recent blog post on Eich’s website outlines the ways in which he intended to work with the LGBT community to make Mozilla even more inclusive. So why then was he seemingly forced to step down? To what degree should social and digital media dictate executive positions?

There are no hard answers right now, but this certainly won’t be the last time we’ll see internet outrage kill a career.



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