Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has publicly committed to firing a supposed employee spewing hate speech on Reddit–if the company can figure out who he is.
An anonymous Reddit user by the name of aoiyama, who claims to work for Mozilla, posted comments celebrating the departure of the firm’s community organizer, Christie Koehler, adding that “when she and the rest of her blue-haired, nose-pierced asshole feminists are gone, the tech industry will breathe a sigh of relief.” (The user had previously posted in the MensRights subreddit alleging favoritism toward women at his company, though in those cases he didn’t identify his employer.)
Koehler resigned from Mozilla earlier this month, decrying the company’s failure to address diversity and accessibility issues in a series of tweets.
In remarks at a project meeting, Beard emphasized that the posts “crossed a line from criticism to hate speech,” defining it as “when you start saying that ‘someone’s kind doesn’t belong here and we’ll all be happy when they’re gone.’ If that’s not hate speech, it’s pretty damn close and we’re not going to walk that line as Mozilla.”
At this point, the threat is more symbolic than anything, as the posts were anonymous; users in the thread have already started counseling aoiyama to scrub his Reddit account of any identifying info after Beard’s statement. While the employee probably felt he was free to vent privately on his own time without repercussions, most employment agreements are at will, and aoiyama’s comments are harmful to an already troubled view of Mozilla’s workplace culture.
In addition to Koehler’s ordeal, the company’s previous CEO resigned last year after coming under fire for supporting a gay marriage ban. And there is growing precedent for terminating employees for online hate speech, thanks to efforts like the Tumblr Racists Getting Fired.
This is also an interesting development in a week when the supposedly private Internet activity of millions of people was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack, with potential implications both personal and professional. In that case, an employer’s interest in acting on the revelations of adulterous employees is far more murky, and probably not ethically justified in most cases. But Beard’s statement of justification is clear, whether or not he has the opportunity to act on it in this particular case.