Epik Loses a Key Team Member Due to Scandals

Joseph Peterson resigns from Epik over the Gab.com and New Zealand mosque shooting scandals. Joseph still posts on the heated Namepros thread about Rob and Epik. He generally disagrees with some of Rob’s recently public positions and the type of content published on Epik platforms but is a strong supporter of the Epik brand. According to the Epik website, Joseph is in upper management as Director of Operations. He is currently remaining at Epik to ensure a smooth transition of duties and that existing projects are handed off properly.

According to Peterson, he handed in his resignation on March 26. And he wrote the statement below on March 29 but it wasn’t publicly published until April 16 on a NamePros thread:

“Yes, it’s true that I decided not to continue at Epik. It wasn’t an easy choice, since I’ve had a very positive experience working at the company. I like my colleagues and my boss. The job of running a registrar is interesting. No 2 days are ever alike. Epik products, features, and services are already strong and improving steadily. Customers are happy. In many areas, Epik has been an innovator. Growth opportunities are abundant, and I’ve enjoyed strategizing for Epik’s success.

I wasn’t planning to leave at all. There was scandal, it’s true, in 2018 when Epik permitted Gab.com to be transferred after the domain was suspended at GoDaddy. We withstood that initial controversy. Within the Gab forum, there is racist content that I consider utterly vile and abhorrent, even dangerous. But I have always taken a hard stance in favor of free speech and advocated for due process and registrar neutrality with respect to legal content. Since my views on de-platforming and censorship coincide with Rob’s, it was easy for me to support his decision, once I learned of it, to allow Gab.com to exist in public view. And I still fully support that decision.

The scandal lingered, however. Whereas for me Gab.com was just 1 domain among hundreds of thousands of domains at Epik, a controversial website that repelled me and to which I paid no attention whatsoever, for Rob the Gab forum was more important. With good intentions, Rob engaged actively with Gab members and promoted the site as part of a broader alt-tech / free-speech cause. Rob wants to make the web more open, websites more resilient, and browsing more private. Epik has developed products in those areas. Hence Rob found legitimate common ground with Gab members who distrust Big Brother and who have been exposed to censorship.

Rob being politically and socially conservative, he also found enough overlap with Gab members that he could participate in discussions and share his individual opinions. Even though Rob doesn’t share the racism exhibited by some Gab members, he was able to tolerate them, perhaps as a christian with a wish to convert and soften. Unfortunately, this proximity to racist views allowed the press, which was already hostile toward Gab and angry with Epik for having kept Gab alive, to caricature Rob unfairly as an antisemite and white nationalist whose free-speech concerns were merely a subterfuge for spreading alt-right propaganda. That is false. As a progressive, my own views are very different from Rob’s. But I have always observed Rob to treat others with respect, including muslim employees, jewish board members and colleagues – anyone. Diversity of opinion and background has always been actively welcomed by Rob at Epik.

None of this would have led me to resign were it not for some unfortunate public comments Rob made about the recent New Zealand massacre. Specifically, Rob disseminated a video of the shooting, expressing doubts about its authenticity. Acting as an individual, Rob has every right to share his opinion. And I’m inclined to believe, with Rob, that footage should not be censored everywhere online. But for any CEO to invite such political controversy is unwise. And this particular case was especially damaging for Epik, since we had inherited the Gab scandal after a similar shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. So this unnecessary action now linked the Epik brand to 2 massacres targeting minority groups.

Though Rob did not mean to give offense, this incident did bother me. Distrust of the mainstream media might lead someone like Rob to question the received narrative without any ill will toward muslims. And yet, even though Rob himself is as innocent disbelieving this footage as he is disbelieving in the moon landing, narratives dismissive of white nationalist terrorism strike me as insidious. Since Epik has multiple muslim employees and I myself have ties to the muslim community, the casualness with which Rob made these comments struck me as insensitive. One of the memes he shared inside Gab (which was later shown to me) was also insensitive toward muslims, though I must point out that such misconceptions are shared by half the population of the USA. More importantly, Rob shows himself to be tolerant and friendly toward muslims in actual life.

Insensitivity is not intolerance. Rob made a mistake and has already shown a willingness to listen to concerns raised after this scandal by muslims and others. I would not quit based on insensitivity or a mistake. Both can be fixed. Rob has always been open and receptive to input.

Rather, I came to the conclusion that some of the public identifies Epik with Gab and with alt-right politics to such an extent that repositioning Epik as a mainstream brand will be difficult. The abstract principles of registrar neutrality and free speech, which I care about as much as Rob does, are now, in Epik’s case, entangled with questions of political ideology. That is to say, the public suspects that free speech has a sinister covert agenda. Disentangling free speech from political views is possible, but the explanations are long and often disbelieved. In practice, most people draw superficial conclusions without fully understanding the circumstances of Epik’s involvement with Gab or even the distinction between Rob’s personal views and Epik positions.

This recent scandal emerged as a result of my boss’s private political views while I was focused on Epik features, products, and services. It is difficult to work effectively under those conditions. It is unclear how I should defend the Epik brand when it is being attacked for private opinions, which I don’t share and which have nothing to do with Epik really. The public insists nonsensically that Rob = Epik, and I’m not Rob. Even worse, many seem to think Gab = Rob = Epik, which obligates me to distinguish between Rob’s views and the views of racists in Gab, neither of which are mine or Epik’s.

Dealing with the scandal has proved to be a distraction from my primary role at Epik, and it interferes with my responsibility to present Epik as a neutral registrar. Also, given Epik’s investment in innovative services related to website resiliency and privacy, it is inevitable that controversial websites in the future will cause this current scandal to resurface in the media, which has already written distorted, overtly hostile articles. Given this baggage, I prefer to step down and begin fresh in some other role.

Epik is a good company that I would recommend to anyone seeking a registrar or an employer. I continue to respect Rob for taking a courageous stand against de-platforming and censorship. A registrar’s role in fostering free speech online remains dangerously undervalued, and Rob’s decisions and motivations deserve more support and understanding from the domain industry. Gab is only 1 domain among hundreds of thousands of domains at Epik. To ensure continuity for Epik customers and staff, I will be staying on at Epik for awhile to complete unfinished tasks and projects, hand over responsibilities, and train my replacements. Epik customers will continue to receive what I genuinely believe is the best support offered by any registrar in the industry. Rob set that standard personally.​”

2 thoughts on “Epik Loses a Key Team Member Due to Scandals

  • April 18, 2019 at 9:06 pm
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    Just for the record, the resignation was March 26; and this statement was written on March 29.

    Reply
    • April 18, 2019 at 11:24 pm
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      I published the statement after you posted it on the NamePros thread this past Tuesday, April 16. But my understanding is that you wrote it much earlier. So thanks for the clarification.

      Reply

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