- Facebook may be losing out on talent thanks to the impact of its various data and misinformation scandals.
- Ben Werdmuller, a Bay Area-based product manager, told Business Insider he turned down a Facebook recruiter because of the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
- He said people working at Facebook were also disappointed in the company but felt they could do good inside the organisation.
- Werdmuller said there was an “endemic problem” with Silicon Valley not taking its social responsibilities seriously.
Facebook has had a rough year. There was the drawn-out Cambridge Analytica data breach, which wiped $US60 billion off its market cap and evolved into other scandals. Then the firm had to accept that it had a key role in spreading deceptive information during the 2016 US election. Then Instagram’s founders quit. Then WhatsApp’s cofounder Brian Acton dunked on the company in an explosive tell-all with Forbes. Now the company has acknowledged what looks like the biggest hack in its history.
Apart from denting the stock price, the cumulative effect of all these mishaps may be affecting Facebook’s ability to hire the best talent.
Business Insider spoke with Ben Werdmuller, an ethically minded product developer who says he recently gave a Facebook recruiter short shrift. He turned down a potential interview on the basis of the firm’s Cambridge Analytica data breach, which enabled the consultancy to weaponize Facebook data during the 2016 US presidential election.
Werdmuller tweeted this rejection letter last week:
When a Facebook headhunter reaches out to you pic.twitter.com/J70LLoVKsx
— Ben Werdmuller (@benwerd) September 28, 2018
Turning down a job at Facebook is no small thing. The company’s median pay in 2017 was almost a quarter of a million dollars, and prospective employees fight for jobs.
Werdmuller was previously an engineer at Medium and an investor at Matter VC, and he now works on Unlock, a new way for creators to make money from their content. He lives in Oakland, California.
“I know quite a few people who are very critical of Facebook,” Werdmuller said. “I actually think it’s not fair to be solely critical of Facebook. There’s a much more endemic problem in the tech industry, and in Silicon Valley in particular, which is … not being respectful.
“As tech becomes more and more ingrained in society, we need it to be more respectful of context. Facebook is the punching bag because it’s the largest.”
As Werdmuller sees it, Facebook is incapable of shouldering its social responsibility. As well as the 2016 election, he points to the impact of Facebook’s insistence on users using their real names on the drag-queen community, which he said “shut those people from that whole slice of discourse.”
“If they are not able to put their social responsibility above their responsibility to shareholders, then it’s very difficult to endorse working for them,” he said. “It’s actually much easier to endorse finding ways to disrupt them.”
He added: “It would be wrong not to bring politics into technology, because technology is so ingrained in society. You have to make ethical decisions … You can’t look at tech in a vacuum.”
There are signs some Facebook employees are also questioning their future at the company. According to a New York Times article from April, unhappy engineers requested transfers from Facebook’s main product to its acquisitions WhatsApp and Instagram.
Werdmuller accepts that he’s in a privileged position to be able to turn down a potentially high-paying job.
“I am friends with Facebookers as well as people who work at Google and Twitter and so on,” he added. “And I think they agree with me. It’s not that they’re opposed to what I’m saying. There are lots of people who feel they can do good inside these organisations … They have made different decisions, which I respect.”
If you have a similar experience, you can contact the author of this story at [email protected]
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