Facebook vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth found himself in the familiar position of defending something he wrote for internal consumption at the company that ended up being publicly leaked.
Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac of The New York Times obtained a copy of a memo Bosworth shared on his internal Facebook profile Dec. 30, in which he stated that while he does not want to see President Donald Trump win a second term, he also did not want to see Facebook do anything that could potentially manipulate the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Bosworth responded by publicly sharing his memo, Thoughts for 2020, and saying in his post introducing the memo: “It wasn’t written for public consumption, and I am worried about context collapse, so I wanted to share some important context for those who are curious.”
He added, “We have a culture at Facebook of sharing ideas and inviting discussion internally … Overall, I hoped this post would encourage my coworkers to continue to accept criticism with grace as we accept the responsibility we have overseeing our platform.”
Facebook had no further comment beyond Bosworth’s response. The Trump campaign had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this post.
Bosworth found himself in a similar situation in March 2018, when BuzzFeed News obtained and shared a memo he penned in June 2016, in which he stressed connecting people at all costs, writing in part, ““So we connect more people. 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.”
He led Facebook’s ads and business platform for five years, including the period during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, before shifting in August 2017 from vp of ads and business platform to vp of consumer hardware.
Bosworth referenced Lord of the Rings in the part of his memo drawing the most attention, writing, “As a committed liberal, I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result. So, what stays my hand? I find myself thinking of the Lord of the Rings at this moment—specifically, when Frodo offers the ring to Galadriel and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her. As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”
Other noteworthy parts of Thoughts for 2020 follow:
“$100,000 in ads on Facebook can be a powerful tool, but it can’t buy you an American election.”
Bosworth stressed that while Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was real, advertising was not the weapon of choice.
He pointed to tactics such as “hosting Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protest events in the same city on the same day.”
Bosworth said that while he does not expect foreign interference to play a major role in the upcoming election, “It is certainly true that we should have been more mindful of the role both paid and organic content played in democracy and been more protective of it.”
Bosworth dismissed Cambridge Analytica as “a total non-event,” and he even praised Brad Parscale, digital director of Trump’s 2016 campaign and campaign manager for his re-election effort, for debunking Cambridge Analytica’s claims that it helped influence the 2016 results.
“They were snake oil salespeople,” he wrote. “The tools they used didn’t work, and the scale they used them at wasn’t meaningful. Every claim they have made about themselves is garbage.”