Zuckerberg Tries To Do Damage Control on 'Ugly Truth' Memo
Another day, another uproar involving Facebook and another attempt at damage control by Mark Zuckerberg. On Friday, Facebook officials tried to distance themselves from comments made by company vice president Andrew Bosworth in a 2016 memo in which Bosworth said that whatever Facebook did to connect people was acceptable, no matter the results or seemingly the consequences.
"So we connect more people," wrote Bosworth, in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Buzzfeed. "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. And still we connect people."
Also in the memo, entitled "The Ugly Truth," Bosworth wrote that, "We believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good."
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg quickly disavowed those views from Bosworth, a top lieutenant who has been with the company since 2006 and whom Zuckerberg called a "talented leader" who "says many provocative things."
"This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly," Zuckerberg said in a statement to this news organization. "We've never believed the ends justify the means."
Bosworth took to Twitter on Friday morning, saying that his memo was taken out of context and that not only doesn't he agree with its content now, but he also didn't at the time he 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," Bosworth wrote. "I care deeply about how our product affects people and I take very personally the responsibility I have to make that impact positive."
Michael Pachter, an analyst who covers Facebook for Wedbush Securities, said that while Bosworth's memo has "horrible connotations," people should remain pragmatic about the matter.
"I think that they meant that their mission would cause people to be more connected, nothing more," Pachter said. "The truth is that any site with 2 billion users has a few bad actors, and his comments merely acknowledged that."
Zuckerberg and Facebook have been playing defense for more than a week, since revelations that data-analysis company Cambridge Analytica accessed and improperly stored the personal information of more than 50 million Facebook users and used that information for political means, including the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Zuckerberg is expected to testify before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica matter, and how Facebook protects its users' private data. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited Zuckerberg, as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to an April 10 hearing on data privacy.
Dan Ives, chief strategy officer and head of technology research at GBH Insights, said the Bosworth memo "adds gasoline to the growing inferno around Zuckerberg and Facebook," and will certainly be brought up in the Congressional hearings next month.
"Bosworth has been an instrumental figure at Facebook," Ives said, "and when a firestorm like this happens, every memo or event over the past decade will be analyzed, with this particular one adding to the narrative causing user, (Wall) Street and regulatory backlash."
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, Cambridge Analytica
, Sundar Pichai