Facebook boss: Anything that helps firm grow is good... even if someone dies in terror attack
A FACEBOOK boss said the drive to keep expanding the social media giant was justified even if it led to deaths or ‘questionable’ practices with data.
A leaked internal memo revealed the executive said even if Facebook was used by bullies or terrorists planning attacks the most important thing was connecting people and ensuring the growth of the company.
Andrew Bosworth also said ethically dubious data practices could be justified if they resulted in Facebook continuing to grow.
In frantic Twitter posts after the memo was made public, Mr Bosworth claimed he did not actually agree with the document and was only being ‘provocative’. But for many it showed the real mindset of Facebook bosses. The company is going through its worst ever crisis after allegations its lax privacy policies could have unfairly swung the US election and the Brexit referendum. The claims have led to the firm being investigated by privacy regulators in the US, the UK and Europe.
Mr Bosworth, who prefers to be known as Boz, is part of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s inner circle and joined the company in 2006. He has been involved in everything from the news feed shown to users to its anti-abuse systems.
His memo, written in January 2016 and obtained by the website Buzzfeed, said: ‘ So we connect more 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.
‘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.’
In another section, he said: ‘ We connect people. Period. That’s why
‘Intended to be provocative’
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.’
Such an attitude has led Facebook to amass more than two billion users. But the cost became apparent in the past few weeks when it emerged that Facebook’s inadequate privacy rules allowed Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting company, to harvest the data of 50million users without their permission.
Social media has been a boon to terrorists, who have used it to spread hate. Groups such as Al Qaeda and IS have set up special teams to make use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Mr Bosworth’s memo sparked anger within Facebook, according to internal posts by employees obtained by tech website The Verge.
One employee asked if the company was hiring ‘smart people’ who ‘lack a moral compass and loyalty’. Mr Bosworth said he wrote the memo to ‘bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion’, even though he did not agree with them. He wrote: ‘It was intended to be provocative. This was one of the most unpopular things I’ve ever written internally and the ensuing debate helped shape our tools for the better.’
Mr Zuckerberg said: ‘Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly.’