Facebook is learning that no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. The latest PR disaster to hit the company has come in the form of a leaked internal memo, in which VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth suggests that the platform’s growth should come at any cost, even if it means someone killing themselves as a result of bullying or people being killed in terror attacks organized on the site.
In the 2016 memo, which is aptly titled “the ugly” and was published on Buzzfeed, Bosworth writes, “anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”
...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.
Buzzfeed notes that the memo was posted the day after a Chicago man was shot and killed while using Facebook Live.
The memo is particularly damning as it comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw the personal data of 50 million people used by the electioneering firm without their consent.
Bosworth argues that all growth methods are 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,” he wrote.
Bosworth has issued a response to the memo on Twitter, insisting that he didn’t agree with it when he wrote it. The VP says it was meant to surface issues that deserved more discussion while encouraging debate within the company. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also denied that Facebook puts growth above all else.
My statement on the recent Buzzfeed story containing a post I wrote in 2016 pic.twitter.com/lmzDMcrjv5— Boz (@boztank) March 29, 2018
"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,” Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed, in a statement.
Despite the controversies it has been through in the past, such as the Russian election interference and its apparent lack of action against terrorist propaganda, the public image of Facebook has never been so tarnished. As it faces FTC investigations, call for Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and the UK’s parliament, a #deletefacebook campaign that is gathering traction, companies pulling ads, lawsuits, and the loss of big-name profiles, this memo couldn’t have come at a worse time.