Mozilla CEO steps down over controversy

April 4, 2014 5:49 AM

Mozilla foundation CEO, Brendan Eich has resigned via a blog post, just days after his appointment due to the igniting anger over his contribution to an anti-same-sex marriage lobby.

Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich , Modzilla Ex-CEO.

Co-founder of Mozilla and the creator of the JavaScript scripting language, Eich made a $1,000 USD donation in 2008 in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8. Prop 8 was a ballot initiative that sought to make same-sex marriage illegal in the state. News of Eich’s donation was first made public in 2012, but attracted a new wave of attention last week when Eich was promoted to CEO from his previous job as chief technology officer.

Despite assurances from both Eich and Mozilla, who make the popular Firefox internet browser, that Eich’s personal views would not impact the company’s commitment to supporting its employees regardless of sexual orientation, the tidal wave of criticism from LGBT advocates, Mozilla employees and social media was evidently too much for the company to ignore. “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” the company wrote on its official blog. “We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.”

Mitchell Baker

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Chairwoman.

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech,” said Mozilla’s Chairwoman Mitchell Baker in a the blog post announcing the resignation. “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”  “Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO,” the company said. “He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.” Baker also stated “It’s clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting.

Mozilla initially defended Eich’s appointment, but Mozilla’s blog post announcing the chief executive’s departure made apologies for doing so. Mozilla is maintaining that Eich stepped down and wasn’t pushed from the job, despite the overwhelming criticism both have faced.

The question that remains is whether Mozilla has done enough to recover any lost ground. Baker seems confident that the scandal won’t hurt the company in the long run, stating “We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility”. It could well be a case of too little, too late, for those LGBT users who have already jumped ship to another browser.