Facebook Memo: 'Questionable Practices' Are Good if They Get More People on FB


As anti-Facebook backlash continues to mount amid multiple reports revealing the extent of its data-mining practices, a 2016 internal memo has resurfaced this week to amplify the prevailing sentiment.

On Thursday, Buzzfeed published the memo — sent in June 2016 by Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth — in its entirety.

The high-ranking executive seemed to encourage employees to advance the company’s core cause of connecting people at any cost.

“We connect people. Period,” Bosworth wrote. “That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified.”

He specifically mentioned “questionable contact importing practices” as among the methods he claimed were warranted in pursuit of the larger corporate mission.

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“All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends,” he continued. “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 memo took an even darker turn when Bosworth broached multiple deadly scenarios that could result from the platform, which he touted as primarily a means to “connect more people.” But even connecting users “can be bad” if misused, he wrote.

“Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies,” he wrote. “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated by our tools.”

Any of these scenarios seems to fall under what he later dubbed the “ugly truth” about Facebook.

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Bosworth wrote that the company’s leaders “believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

Buzzfeed cited former Facebook employees who said Bosworth has a reputation for speaking his mind even when it created problems for himself or others.

“The memo is classic Boz because it speaks to the majority of Facebook employee views but it’s also polarizing,” one former senior-level employee said. “Tonally he doesn’t mince words. This is clearly a post meant to rally the troops.”

Nearly 2 years later, however, the meo is giving critics additional ammunition to use against the beleaguered tech giant. It has also prompted denunciations of its message from both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Bosworth himself.

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“I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it,” the post’s author claimed in a statement Thursday. “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.”

As Buzzfeed later reported, Zuckerberg heralded Bosworth as a “talented leader,” but said he and most of the company strongly disagreed with the contents of his controversial memo.

“We’ve never believed the ends justify the means,” he said. “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.”

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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