Facebook's "Ugly Truth" Memo Is All About the Price of Freedom

File-This Nov. 9, 2017, file photo shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meeting with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion at Cortex Innovation Community technology hub in St. Louis. Facebook is announcing its second major tweak to its algorithm this month, saying it will prioritize news based on users’ votes. The company said in a blog post and Facebook post from Zuckerberg Friday, jan. 19, 2018, that it will survey users about how familiar they are with a news source and if they trust it. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Dictators keep power by stopping opponents from talking to each other. Facebook’s “ugly truth” memo is about communication, and ultimately about the price of freedom.


File-This Nov. 9, 2017, file photo shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meeting with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion at Cortex Innovation Community technology hub in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

The regulators, competitors, and zealots are all out for Facebook. So they dug up an old internal memo that says true things, which means it’s politically incorrect:

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 co-ordinated 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’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.

This is a very politically incorrect quote. China! Terrorism! Bullies! They might as well be admitting to Facebook causing mass shootings!

Well, they’re right. Because ultimately, Facebook communications are an exercise in freedom of speech. Freedom of speech isn’t good or bad. It just is a right that we have, and one that cannot be taken away from us.

To ban Facebook because people use speech for evil, would be just as wrong as banning guns because people use them for evil. Facebook, like a gun, is a tool that is used to exercise a right.

Facebook’s memo will be treated like a hot potato, much like the famous memo on diversity that went around at Google, but it’s only telling the truth. When we have freedom, some people will use it to do wrong things, but that’s no reason to get rid of freedom.