Lesson of the day: Think before you tweet.
Last week, social media developer/coder Adria Richards snapped a photo of two strangers whom she accused of inappropriate, sexist conduct. Except she didn’t confront the men themselves. She just tweeted it publicly. To the rest of the world.
She also complained to the other attendees and organizers of #pycon, the tech conference that she and the men were attending.
She was proud of herself for calling out the purported sexists, as were some of her Twitter fans.
Well, that’s a bit much. Especially since not everyone thought the overheard remarks represented as clear-cut a case of barbaric sexism as she made it out to be. A reporter for Forbes Tech writes:
Richards wrote a blog post about the encounter, in which it’s not entirely clear that the comments were sexist (in my reading). Meanwhile, one of the male developers revealed that he had been let go from his job as a result of the public shaming, and said while he had been making a joke about the male anatomy by referring to “big dongles” (a piece of tech hardware), “forking” is a term he and his colleague used to denote “the highest form of flattery.”
According to PlayHaven, the former employer of the “dongle” joker, there may have been several reasons he was axed this week:
But from the CEO’s statement, it’s clear what the main catalyst was:
PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honorable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go. We value and protect the privacy of our employees, both past and present, and we will not comment on all the factors that contributed to our parting ways.
This employee was not Alex Reid, who is still with the company and a valued employee.
We believe in the importance of discussing sensitive topics such as gender and conduct and we hope to move forward with a civil dialogue based on the facts.
After inciting an Internet storm and backlash of comments across several platforms, guess who else was fired? Adria Richards, the self-styled whistleblower. Her employer, SendGrid, suffered a distributed denial of service attack from vengeful supporters of the fired male developer.
SendGrid supports the right to report inappropriate behavior, whenever and wherever it occurs,” writes CEO Jim Franklin. “What we do not support was how she reported the conduct. Her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line. Publicly shaming the offenders – and bystanders – was not the appropriate way to handle the situation.”
There are no winners in this social media soap opera.