Rap Genius Co-Founder Mahbod Moghadam Resigns Following Elliot Rodger Manifesto Annotation

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Rap Genius Co-Founder Mahbod Moghadam Resigns Following Elliot Rodger Manifesto Annotation

Mahbod Moghadam resigns from Rap Genius and its board of directors after making annotations about Elliot Rodger's 141-page manifesto.

Mahbod Moghadam, one of Rap Genius' co-founders, has resigned from the company following annotations he made regarding Elliot Rodger.

Rodger is a man law enforcement officials believe went on a killing spree near University of California, Santa Barbara recently, killing at least 6 people and injuring several others, before reportedly killing himself. 

Moghadam's annotations, which have since been deleted, were placed on Rap Genius' site, annotating the 141-page manifesto believed to have been left behind by Rodger. In his annotations, Moghadam says at least part of Rodger's document is "beautifully written" and that Rodger's sister is likely "smokin hot." 

"I was fascinated by the fact that a text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime, especially since Elliot is talking about my neighborhood growing up," Moghadam reportedly said in a statement to Gawker. "I got carried away with making the annotations and making any comment about his sisters was in horrible taste, thankfully the [Rap Genius] community edits out my poor judgment, I am very sorry for writing it." 

Tom Lehman, who is a co-founder and CEO of Rap Genius, announced Moghadam's resignation yesterday (May 26). He said Moghadam “not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.

"I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission,” Lehman added.

Rap Genius was founded by Moghadam, Lehman and Ilan Zechory in 2009. The three Yale students raised millions to back their company and have been involved in controversy surrounding publishing licenses for its content. Recently, the company worked with publishers and the National Music Publishers Association to help correct this issue.

Rap Genius was also targeted by Google within the last year for link schemes which impacted the company's standing with the search engine. Rap Genius returned to Google soon after being punished by the search engine. Their statement about the link issue included an apology to its readers and Google.

"To Google and our fans: we’re sorry for being such morons," the statement said. "We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking. We’re focused on building the best site in the world for understanding lyrics, poetry, and prose and watching it naturally rise to the top of the search results." 

Lehman's full statement regarding Mahbod Moghadam's resignation, as printed on Rap Genius, is below: 

"Yesterday the Rap Genius community annotated Elliot Rodger’s manifesto on News Genius. Because this tragedy is still so raw, there was internal debate as to whether this document belonged on the site at all. Ultimately we decided that it was worthy of close reading – understanding the psychology of people who do horrible things can help us to better understand our society and ourselves.

"The current version of the annotated document is far from great, but the hope is that the annotations will improve over time as the story unfolds and it will eventually be a good resource for people looking to understand this tragedy.

"Almost all the annotations were at least attempting a close reading – they were genuinely, though imperfectly, trying to add context to the text and make it easier to understand.

"However, Mahbod Moghadam, one of my co-founders, annotated the piece with annotations that not only didn’t attempt to enhance anyone’s understanding of the text, but went beyond that into gleeful insensitivity and misogyny. All of which is contrary to everything we’re trying to accomplish at Rap Genius.

"Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a new Rap Genius user, it would be up to our community leaders, who set the tone of the site and our approach to annotation, to delete them and explain to the new user why they were unacceptable.

"Were Mahbod’s annotations posted by a Rap Genius moderator, that person would cease to be an effective community leader and would have to step down.

"And Mahbod, our original community leader, is no exception. In light of this, Mahbod has resigned – both in his capacity as an employee of the company, and as a member of our board of directors, effective immediately.

"Mahbod is my friend. He's a brilliant, creative, complicated person with a ton of love in his heart. Without Mahbod Rap Genius would not exist, and I am grateful for all he has done to help Rap Genius succeed. But I cannot let him compromise the Rap Genius mission – a mission that remains almost as delicate and inchoate as it was when we three founders decided to devote our lives to it almost 5 years ago."

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