In a never-before-seen internal memo from 2016 titled “The Ugly,” published today by BuzzFeed News, Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth advocated that the social media giant be relentless about growth, even if someone kills themselves as a result of bullying or people are killed in terrorist attacks organized on its platforms.
The memo, Bosworth said in tweets and a statement released shortly after the news report, was meant to be provocative and led to debate that “helped shape our tools for the better.”
In the memo that can be read in full on BuzzFeed News, Bosworth says the company’s growth tactics have been more important to Facebook than things like the News Feed or Facebook Messenger. The natural state of the world is to be disconnected, Bosworth argues, and Facebook’s goal — seemingly no matter the cost — is to 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.
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.
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 has been at Facebook since 2006. In August, he was appointed to lead the company’s AR, VR, and consumer hardware divisions.
In response to the story, Bosworth released the following statement on Twitter:
I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it. 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. Having a debate around hard topics like these is a critical part of our process and to do that effectively we have to be able to consider even bad ideas, if only to eliminate them. To see this post in isolation is rough because it makes it appear as a stance that I hold or that the company holds when neither is the case. I care deeply about how our product affects people and I take personally the responsibility I have to make that impact positive.
Bosworth’s comments come amid calls for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to speak before multiple committees in the U.S. Congress and the U.K. parliament, as well as investigations by the FTC and multiple state attorneys general. Earlier this month, news outlets reported that 50 million Facebook profiles were falsely obtained to create psychological profiles of voters. Though Facebook disclosed the misuse of user data this month, the company had knowledge of the improper use of data back in 2015.
The incident is a breach in trust between Facebook and its users, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post and in interviews. The company has started auditing apps on its app platform that use large amounts of user data.
In the public backlash to the breach, #deletefacebook has been trending, bolstered by people as varied as comedian Will Ferrell, WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose combined businesses lost more than 5 million followers when he had their Facebook Pages deleted. Facebook was rumored to be releasing a video chat device in May, but that plan has reportedly been delayed for additional privacy review.