Newly-revealed 2016 internal memo says Facebook growth justified even if it kills someone

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A memo written in 2016 has just come to light in which a Facebook VP argues that ‘questionable’ and deceptive tactics to grow the platform are justified – even if they cost someone their life.

The memo was written by one of Facebook’s longest-serving execs, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth …

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Facebook is defending itself again after an internal memo suggested growth was more important than user safety

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Facebook exec Andrew “Boz” Bosworth

From the 2016 memo: “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools … And still we connect people.”

Facebook’s bad month is getting even worse — now because of an internal memo by one of the company’s top executives that suggests, among other things, that Facebook’s mission to connect people is more important than user safety.

The memo, which was published by BuzzFeed, is from Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, one of Facebook’s longest-tenured execs and one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s closest colleagues. The memo, from 2016, is titled “The Ugly,” and highlights that Facebook’s work doesn’t always have positive outcomes.

Here’s a key part of the memo:

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.

Shortly after BuzzFeed’s story went live Bosworth tweeted to say he doesn’t agree with the post, and that it was intended to create “debate about hard topics.”

“The purpose of this post, like many others I have written internally, was to bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion with the broader company,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg quickly issued a statement via a company spokesperson also condemning the memo, and saying Facebook specifically made changes in 2017 to better reflect its mission.

“Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things,” Zuckerberg’s statement reads. “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.”

Whether or not Boz believed what he wrote, the memo matters because it highlights what people outside of Silicon Valley often fear about Silicon Valley: That big tech companies don’t actually care about the people who use their services, only that those people serve as data points that help tech companies grow.

Bosworth, after Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, has become Facebook’s most visible executive, often active on Twitter, responding to critics and news stories about the company’s latest controversies.

Facebook, in particular, has earned a reputation over the years as a place that prioritizes business over all else — the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal is a primary example. A lot of people don’t actually believe that Facebook feels bad that user data fell into the wrong hands. They just believe that Facebook feels bad it got caught.

A memo like this will only fuel that disconnect. Was Boz simply trying to point out that there are negative side effects to building the internet, which is essentially what Facebook has become to large portions of the world? Perhaps. It’s important that executives understand the impact that tech companies can have on the world, and the memo shows that Boz and Facebook are, at the very least, aware of the potential consequences of their work.

But it also puts Facebook — and the rest of Silicon Valley — back into a box it has been trying to get out of for years. It’s hard to win user trust if people don’t feel like they matter.

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Here are the internal Facebook posts of employees discussing today’s leaked memo

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The publication of a June 2016 memo describing the consequences of Facebook’s growth-at-all-costs triggered an emotional conversation at the company today. An internal post reacting to the memo found employees angry and heartbroken that their teammates were sharing internal company discussions with the media. Many called on the company to step up its war on leakers and hire employees with more “integrity.”

On Thursday evening, BuzzFeed published a memo from Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, a vice president at Facebook who currently leads its hardware efforts. In the memo, Bosworth says that the company’s core function is to connect people, despite consequences that he repeatedly called “ugly.” “That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified….

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Leaked Facebook memo: ‘ugly truth’ justified any growth tactics

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Buzzfeed has published an internal Facebook memo entitled "The Ugly" from 2016 that shows just how much emphasis the social network places on growth above safety, privacy and everything else. Written by Facebook VP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, one of Mark…
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In a leaked memo, Facebook executive describes the consequences of its growth-at-all-costs mentality

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

A leaked memo from a Facebook executive has described the consequences of the company’s growth-at-all-costs mentality. BuzzFeed on Thursday published a June 2016 memo by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who currently leads the company’s hardware division, in which Bosworth says he wants “to talk about the ugly” aspect of the company’s work.

“We connect people. Period,” Bosworth wrote. “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.”

Bosworth distanced himself from his comments. “I don’t agree with the…

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Top Facebook exec defended data collection in leaked 2016 memo: ‘Maybe someone dies’

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An explosive new memo details one of Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted executives attempting to justify growing concerns over the company’s data collection methods, and its relentless push to acquire new users. Titled “The Ugly,” the memo has never been circulated outside of Facebook’s offices until today, when Buzzfeed News got its hand on it. The memo, penned by Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bozworth, attempted to push a narrative where the ends certainly justified the means in regards to doing whatever it takes to ensure future growth, even at the expense of user privacy. The ugly truth is that we…

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Leaked memo suggests Nokia’s health business is unhealthy

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Less than two years after Nokia bought health and fitness gear maker Withings for $ 192 million, the major investment appears to be problematic for the Finnish company, as a new memo suggests its health business may not last much longer.
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Labor board says Google legally fired diversity memo writer

James Damore may claim Google was wrong to fire him over his memo criticizing the company's diversity culture, but a federal government overseer begs to differ. The National Labor Relations Board has published a January memo recommending a dismissal…
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Snap’s leaked memo threatens employees with jail time for leaking information

Snap Inc. really can’t catch a break. After news broke earlier this week that it was laying off two dozen of its employees, a leaked memo has surfaced that doesn’t exactly paint the company in a favorable light. And as if yet another leak wasn’t bad enough, here’s the real kicker: the leaked memo was actually about preventing leaks.

In it, Snap goes on to assert that it has a zero-tolerance policy on information leaks, and that any employee caught leaking information will lose their job and even potentially face fines or jail time.

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Snap’s leaked memo threatens employees with jail time for leaking information was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki explains why the ‘Google memo’ author had to be fired

On the latest Recode Decode, the CEO reflects on how the diversity debate sparked by James Damore’s memo affected her personally.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was on vacation when Silicon Valley suddenly plunged into a bitter debate over sexism.

The now-infamous “Google memo,” written by engineer James Damore, argued against diversity initiatives at Google and said that female engineers were less capable of leading others.

Wojcicki, who was part of the team at Google that decided to fire Damore, recalled talking about it over dinner with her children, to whom she had always tried to promote diversity and equality.

“The first question they had about it [was], ‘Is that true?’” Wojcicki said on the latest Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “That really, really surprised me, because here I am — I’ve spent so much time, so much of my career, to try to overcome stereotypes, and then here was this letter that was somehow convincing my kids and many other women in the industry, and men in the industry, convincing them that they were less capable. That really upset me.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

In response to the backlash to Damore’s firing by self-styled “free speech” advocates, Wojcicki said there’s an important difference between free speech on platforms like Google and YouTube, and free speech inside the companies’ offices.

“In fact, James Damore did his first interview with a YouTube creator,” she said. “That’s fine to have on the platform. We have lots of rules, but we tolerate — we enable a broad, broad range of topics to be discussed, from all different points of view.”

“But it’s different if you’re within a company trying to promote more women,” she added. “Think about if you were a woman and James Damore was on your promotion committee, or to just see that the company was enabling this type of harmful stereotype to persist and perpetuate within the company.”

Ultimately, though, Wojcicki described herself as “hopeful” about the future of diversity in tech. First, however, she believes computer science needs to be a mandatory class for all students nationwide.

“If everybody has to take biology and chemistry, they can take computer science,” she said. “Computer science is a more useful skill right now than a lot of other things that people are learning at school. I don’t want to say one is better than the other — they’re all important. But there’s no computer science being taught for many, many students, so that’s really a problem.”

“When we do make it more generally available, then that will solve some of the issues,” she added. “By definition, everyone will be educated in this area. People will understand: yes, women are great at this.”

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