A leaked Facebook memo paints a pretty scary picture of the company’s goals – here’s Mark Zuckerberg’s response
Facebook is not having a good few weeks. After a whistleblower blew up the Cambridge Analytica scandal (which revealed that the data-mining company had used the private information of over 50 million users without their permission), news came out that Facebook was also collecting info from texts and calls from Android users‘ phones. And now there’s this: a leaked Facebook memo that paints a scary picture of the company’s goals. Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the memo in an attempt to do damage control, and we’ll let you decide what to think of the whole thing.
The memo, from June 18th, 2016, was written by a Facebook vice president, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, one of Zuckerberg’s trusted inner circle members, and is titled “The Ugly.” According to BuzzFeed, which first published the Facebook memo, one section states: “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 most damning part of the memo, though, is from another section:
"So we connect more people. 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. And we still connect people."
The memo continues, “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.” The note is lengthy, and if you want to read all of it, you can check it out on BuzzFeed.
In other words, the Facebook memo suggests that the company’s executives are more concerned with growth and making money than keeping their users safe, something many have been saying since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
As BuzzFeed notes, “The Bosworth memo reveals the extent to which Facebook’s leadership understood the physical and social risks the platform’s products carried — even as the company downplayed those risks in public. It suggests that senior executives had deep qualms about conduct that they are now seeking to defend.”
Bosworth published the memo to Facebook — for only employees to see — a day after a Facebook Live video captured the shooting death of a Chicago man. A year after the memo was written, Bosworth gained control of the company’s consumer hardware efforts. A former employee who was angry about the lack of accountability at Facebook for its part in “recent global crises” resurfaced the memo earlier this month. There is no record of Zuckerberg’s response at the time the memo was written and distributed.
However, after BuzzFeed published the Facebook memo, Zuckerberg released a statement to the site:
"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."
Bosworth also defended himself in a statement on Twitter: false
Other employees spoke with BuzzFeed about the memo as well. One former senior executive at Facebook told BuzzFeed News that the kind of views in the memo are “being retroactively raised and discussed in light of the company’s recent scandals,” adding, “right now there’s a tremendous amount of soul-searching, internally.”
It’s unclear what Facebook’s next move will be, but to many, it’s very clear that the company needs to make some big changes.