‘Death from bullying cannot be the cost of doing business’: US senator goes after Facebook and threatens regulation

Mark Zuckerberg Getty Images / Win McNamee
  • A US senator has hinted at regulating Facebook after the leak of a memo in which an executive acknowledged the social network could kill people.
  • Andrew Bosworth defended growth at any cost in the 2016 internal memo.
  • “It is @facebook’s moral obligation to maintain the integrity and safety of their platform,” Senator Ed Markey said. “When they fail to do so, Congress must act.”

The spectre of government regulation is looming for Facebook.

In the wake of the leak of an internal memo in which an executive at the social network defended growth even if it meant people died, US Senator Ed Markey has attacked the social network – warning that if Facebook can’t keep its platform safe, “Congress must act.”

In the 2016 memo, which was leaked to BuzzFeed News, exec Andrew Bosworth (known as “Boz”) discussed the “ugly” side of Facebook’s growth. “Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools,” he wrote.

“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.”

Bosworth has since said that he did not agree with the memo even when he wrote it, and that it was intended to be “provocative.”

A less friendly political landscape for the tech industry

The publication of the memo is the latest in a series of bruising news cycles for Facebook. The company’s privacy practices have come under serious scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political research firm were able to obtain data on around 50 million users. And revelations about the platform’s misuse by Russian political operatives during the 2016 US election have tarnished the social network’s once-rosy public image.

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica, there has been some talk of increased government oversight of the social network. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed some openness to the ieaa in some areas, saying he would support the proposed Honest Ads act.

The tweet from Senator Ed Markey, a Democratic senator for Massachusetts, doesn’t mean regulation is right around the corner. But it’s indicative of how public and political attitudes towards the company are shifting. Democrats have historically been staunch supporters of the tech industry, but are now openly talking about the possibility of reining it in.

“Death from bullying cannot be the cost of doing business,” he wrote. “Terrorist attacks cannot be the cost of doing business. It is @facebook’s moral obligation to maintain the integrity and safety of their platform. When they fail to do so, Congress must act.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.