A Facebook executive circulated a shocking memo in 2016 which sought to justify the company's relentless growth and "questionable contact importing" - even if "maybe it costs someone a life" by suggesting that the company is serving the greater good by connecting people, reports BuzzFeed.
Following the shooting death of a Chicago man captured on Facebook Live, VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's most trusted executives, wrote in the memo titled The Ugly; “We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it,” VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote.
“So we connect more people,” added Bosworth in another section of the memo. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies.
“Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”
The memo clearly illustrates that Facebook management is well aware of the physical and social risks of using the platform - along with the fact that their data collection practices are "questionable."
Bosworth, who joined Facebook in 2006 after working at Microsoft, responded to BuzzFeed story by stringing together a verbose excuse which roughly translates to:
- I don't actually believe what I wrote
- I was throwing out a "bad" idea for the sake of consideration
- That's part of our process of "internal debates" that makes Facebook so awesome
My statement on the recent Buzzfeed story containing a post I wrote in 2016 pic.twitter.com/lmzDMcrjv5— Boz (@boztank) March 29, 2018
Two former employees describe Bosworth as "blunt."
“He is definitely a guy who isn't very diplomatic — he'd blunder into internal debates and internal comms would tend to keep an eye on what he's doing and posting,” one former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “The memo is classic Boz because it speaks to the majority of Facebook employee views but it's also polarizing. Tonally he doesn't mince words. This is clearly a post meant to rally the troops.”
Yes, "rallying troops" to turn a blind eye to egregious privacy violations and attempting to justify terrorists coordinating over Facebook in the name of the "greater good" is very polarizing...
The Bosworth memo, which stresses the extent to which Facebook was built on “growth tactics,” reads as a statement of corporate principles, including phrases like “what we do” and “what we believe” and speaking of “our work” and “our imperative.” In the memo, he argued that Facebook believes its mission of connecting people is so important that anything it does in support of it is "*de facto* good" — even if it allows some to do true, even catastrophic, harm to others. -BuzzFeed
“The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned,” wrote Bosworth. “That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.”
Zuck Freaks Out
In Facebook's perfect world, Hillary Clinton would be President, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower would just be another pink-haired programmer, and their massive data harvesting operation wouldn't have seene the light of day.
Alas for Zuck, Bosworth's letter couldn't have leaked at a worse time. In response to BuzzFeed's story - Zuckerberg (or whoever's in charge of damage control) wrote:
Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We've never believed the ends justify the means.
We recognize that connecting people isn't enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year.
Translation: "That kooky Boz, he says the wackiest things! We really didn't agree with ol' Andy, but we changed our entire corporate focus anyway to do exactly the opposite of his callous suggestion!"
See Bosworth's entire memo below:
June 18, 2016
We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly.
We connect people.
That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.
So we connect more people
That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.
And still we connect people.
The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned.
That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.
That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.
The natural state of the world is not connected. It is not unified. It is fragmented by borders, languages, and increasingly by different products. The best products don’t win. The ones everyone use win.
I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here. If you joined the company because it is doing great work, that’s why we get to do that great work. We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth. Nothing makes Facebook as valuable as having your friends on it, and no product decisions have gotten as many friends on as the ones made in growth. Not photo tagging. Not news feed. Not messenger. Nothing.
In almost all of our work, we have to answer hard questions about what we believe. We have to justify the metrics and make sure they aren’t losing out on a bigger picture. But connecting people. That’s our imperative. Because that’s what we do. We connect people.