Growth at all costs. That’s the primary message in Andrew “Boz” Bosworth’s 2016 memo to Facebook employees, which came to light Thursday in a BuzzFeed bombshell.
“So we connect more people,” the memo reads. “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.”
Bosworth is Facebook’s VP of hardware and has been among the most high-profile executives tasked with wading into the company’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal in recent weeks.
The 2016 memo, titled “The Ugly,” was sent to Facebook employees one day after the shooting of a Chicago man (warning: disturbing) was broadcast live on Facebook. It was apparently meant to suggest that Facebook’s growth has all kinds of implications, including ugly ones. But that growth, like a force of nature, is not to be questioned–regardless of the personal and societal harm it might cause or enable.
“We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified,” Bosworth wrote. “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 memo is perhaps the frankest statement we’ve seen yet regarding Facebook’s single-minded mission to get more people on its social network/advertising platform, and of its dogmatic “connect everyone” cover story. Lurking behind Bosworth’s words is the fact that every new Facebook member means more ad impressions, more personal data harvested, and, arguably, a little more of our collective privacy lost.
Facebook now has more than 2 billion users, and a market cap of more than $450 billion. Bosworth’s memo comes to light amid public outrage over news that a political consulting firm connected with the Trump campaign harvested the data of 50 million Facebook users.
The messianic tone used by Bosworth in the memo is striking. The Kool Aid was flowing:
“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 . . . 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.”
“Boz” has been an outspoken defender of Facebook, and has been rewarded with a VP title and inclusion in Mark Zuckerberg’s inner circle. He responded to the BuzzFeed piece on Twitter, claiming he was playing devil’s advocate in the memo and that he now disagrees with himself:
My statement on the recent Buzzfeed story containing a post I wrote in 2016 pic.twitter.com/lmzDMcrjv5
— Boz (@boztank) March 29, 2018
“We recognize that connecting people isn’t enough by itself,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in response to BuzzFeed‘s story. “We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year.”