Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has disavowed a leaked internal memo, written by the company's vice-president Andrew Bosworth, which acknowledged that while the site could play a role in deaths or terror attacks the outcomes were an expected byproduct of its broader growth tactics.
Bosworth – or 'Boz' as he is known internally – wrote the memo in 2016 after the critical shooting of a Chicago man was broadcast on Facebook Live.
BuzzFeed News obtained the letter. With the subject line 'The Ugly' it read: "We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly. We 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."
Boz went on to say: "that's why all the work we do in growth is justified."
In a statement on the matter, Zuckerberg said: "Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We've never believed the ends justify the means.
"We recognise 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."
Boz himself has said he didn't agree with what he wrote in 2016 email, saying it was intended to stir debate.
My statement on the recent Buzzfeed story containing a post I wrote in 2016 pic.twitter.com/lmzDMcrjv5
— Boz (@boztank) March 29, 2018
The revelation that one of Facebook's top executives was seemingly geared toward chasing growth at any cost comes amid the must turbulent few weeks in the company's history.
In the wake of an expose from the Guardian and Observer which revealed that the personal data of 50 million users was accessed by the electioneering firm Cambridge Analytica, the company has faced significant backlash.
In the UK, Zuckerberg had been tipped to face UK MPs, but he is instead sending one of his most senior execs, the company's chief product officer Chris Cox. In the US, the FTC has confirmed it is investigating the company's data practices.