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Internal Tensions at Facebook Are Boiling Over (buzzfeednews.com)
439 points by laurex 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 323 comments





“It’s otherwise rational, sane people who’re in Mark’s orbit spouting full-blown anti-media rhetoric, saying that the press is ganging up on Facebook,”

Well, the press probably is ganging up on Facebook. That's what the press does. They are sharks. When they smell blood (a story), they move in. Breaking new stories and scooping the other guys is what they live for.

Welcome to the world outside the bubble.


Maybe I'm reading too much into your tone here, but this seems a pretty disingenuous take, and I'm disappointed it's the top comment. You're making it seem like the press is circling Facebook out of some undue desire to turn non stories into breaking news but that's far from the truth. This isn't TMZ following around a philandering star. There is, as you so aptly put, blood in the water here, because when you're a company with the size and reach of Facebook, what you do MATTERS. Facebook counts it's user base in the billions, it holds personally identifying information on even more than that. It arguably has the influence to swing elections and shape public discourse (you can debate how much but at this point it's pretty apparent that it has a measurable effect). It's similar to how politicians are public figures simply by nature of their position. When you hold that much power and influence, your actions, good or bad, are and should be a matter of public record. And it has always been the press' job to hold powerful figures and companies accountable to the public. Facebook has been, especially over the past few years, at best an amoral actor. That has to be news. It has to be. Where ever you fall on the social economic political spectrum, it has to be news worthy when Facebook does something that implies they are trying to manipulate or evade accountability because more so than anyone else that is something we cannot allow the powerful (individual or organization) to do.

I'm no Facebook fan, but the chronology seems remarkable here. Facebook were irritating Rupert Murdoch, and traditional media in general, by refusing to pay fees for articles that appeared in people's feeds. About a month before everybody started running hit-pieces on Facebook, the negotiations broke down, with Facebook telling the news guys to go take a hike.

Suddenly, everybody is absolutely horrified by the fact that Facebook is selling people's data. Despite the fact that it's always been their explicit business model.

Facebook is absolutely a horrible idea, but the news are hardly being impartial. It's incumbent publishers trying to knock out a new rival, using their reputation and power to get the newcomer dragged through the mud by politicians. Nobody should be surprised that the most news-sensitive, not the most privacy-sensitive governments were the ones to attack Facebook most directly. The UK, for instance, is perhaps the most invasive surveillance state west of China - and yet, they've been leading the charge against Facebook. Despite the fact that the same government has floated ideas about monetizing government data about its own citizens!


I mean that's just revisionist history. Yes everyone knew Facebook was selling your data. That's always been clear, but just since 2016 I can think of numerous legitimate stories:

1. Russian interference in the election and the fact that FB knew about it and did nothing.

2. FB running psychological experiments in the newsfeed not only to see if they can make you spend more time there (questionably ok) but also to see if they could affect your mood (definitely not ok).

3. Facebook censoring news in the newsfeed based on political leanings.

4. FB tracking you even after you log out.

5. Zuck lying on capital hill about what he knew and when.

6. FB hiring a pr firm to right negative articles about an investor.

Also to be clear, even if Murdoch was the catalyst for the media turning a critical eye on FB, which is at best unsubstantiated conjecture, it is undeniable that very valid, very concerning stories have been revealed as result of the media's renewed scrutiny.


>1. Russian interference in the election and the fact that FB knew about it and did nothing.

"the fact that FB knew about it and did nothing" is unsubstantiated. The person I trust the most on this is Alex Stamos, who actually left Facebook due to tensions over this, and he's gone on record saying there was no obstruction.

> 2. FB running psychological experiments in the newsfeed not only to see if they can make you spend more time there (questionably ok) but also to see if they could affect your mood (definitely not ok).

From 2014. I'd also disagree with running A/B tests to increase time spent being "questionably ok" though.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/02/facebook-...

3. Facebook censoring news in the newsfeed based on political leanings.

I can't find anything online about this? Unless you're talking about filter bubbles, in which case I think that's a reasonable criticism although I think describing it as "censorship" is a huge stretch.

4. FB tracking you even after you log out.

Again, from 2013.

https://www.dailydot.com/news/facebook-shadow-profiles-priva...

5. Zuck lying on capital hill about what he knew and when.

Can't find any news articles about this.

6. FB hiring a pr firm to right negative articles about an investor.

Fair criticism.


I also have to add, most if not all of these apply to other big internet companies. Hell, Google took pride on all the information it could figure out about you even if you were logged out to target your search, didn't even show up when called to testify, and Youtube is as much a highly-optimized entertainment and news source as Facebook is, with similar faults.

The fact the media are sharks doesn't absolve Facebook's sins. The media ARE sharks though.


Facebook is in a negative news cycle. That’s means two things:

a) Journalists ignore your PR team.

b) Journalists just parrot and re-write was other journalists report.

c) Some journalists are doing real investigative reporting to reinforce these views.

How does it end? The news cycle changes. People forget things. Worse things happen somewhere else.

I’m a lot more concerned about what is being ignored. Facebook has apps which people can, despite what is claimed, fairly easily stop using. Google owns the full stack, operating system, browser, ad platform. It’s a lot more difficult for users to fully exit that environment in the event of abuse.


It could end when new problems stop being revealed in the press, and when facebook starts to make real progress towards addressing these problems. Or facebook can just pretend it's all unfair treatment from the mean news media. I got news for you facebook - there are real problems that need to be addressed.

> Google owns the full stack, operating system, browser, ad platform.

So does Apple, so does Microsoft. Why bring up Google specifically?


Neither of those are ad-tech companies that make their money from spying on users?

Targeted ads are a significant revenue source for all of these companies. That also doesn't explain why Google's stack is harder to leave than the rest.

> Targeted ads are a significant revenue source for all of these companies

I'd like to see some documentation for that claim. Company financial reports? What percentage of Apple or Microsoft revenue comes from selling ads or user data? (Not revenue raised indirectly by them spending on their own advertising)

> that also doesn't explain why Google's stack is harder to leave than the rest.

Parent comment wasn't comparing the difficulty of leaving Google with the difficulty of leaving Apple/Microsoft. The comment was about leaving Google in comparison to leaving Facebook, in the context of a discussion about personal privacy.

I think bringing up Apple & Microsoft is a non sequitur in this context.


I don't believe they release the numbers but they have app search ads and news app ads. They shutdown iAd but it looks like they want to take another crack at it. https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-looks-to-expand-advertisi...

Microsoft owns LinkedIn and Bing which very large ad revenue services.

>I think bringing up Apple & Microsoft is a non sequitur in this context.

Bringing up Google alone was the non sequitur. You could argue its nearly impossible to leave the big three all together but switching between them isn't a significant burden.


How does Apple make money from targeted ads?

Same way everyone else does. Apple has search ads, news ads, they had iAd for a while but that was shut down and it seems they're pushing a new replacement https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-looks-to-expand-advertisi...

> Also to be clear, even if Murdoch was the catalyst for the media turning a critical eye on FB, which is at best unsubstantiated conjecture

Murdoch’s threats are well documented. At a 2016 meeting, “Murdoch conveyed in stark terms, Zuckerberg could expect News Corp executives to become much more public in their denunciations and much more open in their lobbying.” [0]

[0] http://uk.businessinsider.com/rupert-murdoch-reportedly-thre...


> I mean that's just revisionist history. Yes everyone knew Facebook was selling your data.

The fact that they sell data is probably the only thing that hasn't been a purported scandal. Rather, what the media started claiming was a scandal in 2016 was that Facebook had an API in 2007. Which somehow became an issue as soon as FB kicked media companies out of the newsfeed.


When we do it: A/B Testing

When FB does it: Psychological Experiments


I think most people would categorize this as Psychological Experiments vs A/B testing. Most companies don't A/B test whether they can intentionally manipulate people into generally feeling negative.

> To test that, Facebook data scientists tweaked the newsfeed algorithms of roughly 0.04 percent of Facebook users, or 698,003 people, for one week in January 2012. During the experiment, half of those subjects saw fewer positive posts than usual, while half of them saw fewer negative ones. To evaluate how that change affected mood, researchers also tracked the number of positive and negative words in subjects’ status updates during that week-long period. Put it all together, and you have a pretty clear causal relationship. The results were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences, which, for what it’s worth, is a pretty prestigious journal.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/07...


OK so they published the results of an A/B test. My point is that those two phrases mean the same thing, not that it wasn't a psychological experiment.

One describes the how and the other describes the what and the why. They're not the same thing at all.

Yup, but "do people click on a blue button than a green button?" could also be accurately described as a psychological experiment. Every single A/B test that involves user interactions could be described as a psychological experiment. Yet we don't hear the mass media outrage directed at literally every other website in existence.

> Yet we don't hear the mass media outrage directed at literally every other website in existence.

Sorry, let's rephrase. "Harmful psychological testing"

Sure, A/B tests have a psychological component, although the tests don't specifically test for that or they'd be after the reason WHY they clicked on blue vs green. They don't care why, they only care about which got more clicks in order to choose which one to go with. They usually also tend to actually test something, like a feature. What feature was FB A/B testing? They weren't. It was a pure psychological test, with harmful results. You honestly don't see a distinction?


> Yup, but "do people click on a blue button than a green button?" could also be accurately described as a psychological experiment

No it wouldn't. Only to a person who knows nothing about psychology or about experiments would that phrase accurately describe a psychological experiment.


Which is which? Facebook’s study was “Does emotional contagion occur?” Right? So that’s “what”, not “why” or “how”.

The "how" is the psychological experiment. The hypothesis is the "what", as well as the "why" we are doing this.

There were a lot of ethical failures on the part of Facebook, such as the failure to get informed consent, the failure to review the experiment with an independent review board until after it had occurred, misleading said review board to say that the dataset was previously approved, etc., and all for results that the authors think were not very valuable: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/every...


> also to see if they could affect your mood (definitely not ok).

Why is it ok for a bakery to spray the smell of fresh baked goods to affect your mood, but not ok for Facebook to attempt the same?


Scope and direction. The bakery can do everything in its power and still only effect a small subset of people in a certain location. Facebook using everything in its power can arguably effect a significant portion of living humans at the same time.

Second direction of effect. A baker can spray scent to make you think about food, positive or at best neutral effects. Facebook can manipulate what your see to induce rage, fear, hate, xenophobia, anything it wants if it is effective.

Again, I think it really just comes down to scope. Regardless of what precedent there is for corporate interactions with the populace, we are at an unprecedented time with regards to the reach, immediacy, and ubiquity a corporate entity can exert on its users. And when you have a company whose product incentivises immense social pressure on others to join you can end up with huge amounts of influence in a very short time.

Again, looking at it from the precedents of the past you can say there's nothing wrong or different about it but we do not live in the past and these entities are having large and possibly damaging effects on our societies and the precedent with regards to that is to attempt to eliminate it, either through media shaming or governmental regulation.


Your first argument is implying that the ethics of an experiment is dependent on its sample size. That seems ridiculous.

Your second argument is just incorrect. Given that obesity is arguably the foremost health issue in the country, inducing appetite is not "at worst neutral."

The bakery example actually seems pretty comparable to FB. IMO they are both fine because the magnitude of the negative effect of being made hungry by the smell of a bakery and being made angry by seeing a FB post are both insignificantly small.


I believe the argument being made is more on the user's magnitude of engagement. Users interact with facebook on a very close level - there's a level of emotional intimacy that users have with facebook the platform that they don't have with the corner bakery. To draw an analogy, imagine if a bank suddenly decided to run an experiment to tell people that they had lost all their money and that there was no recourse. Wouldn't that be a pretty fucked up thing for a bank to do?

The bank would be lying to you and possibly cause real financial damage e.g. mislead customer sells car to pay rent b/c thought they were now broke. An equivalent to FB would be experimenting with different interior designs to make people less likely to come into the branch vs use ATM's. FB is a content delivery platform and it should be free to experiment with different content delivery algorithms. FB has no duty to show specific things to specific users like a bank has to provide accurate account information. If FB had such a duty, it could never change it's algorithm. That would be ridiculous.

Just because FB doesn't publish the information itself doesn't mean it isn't liable for that information being on its platform.

I think your argument would make sense if Facebook was "dumb" content delivery platform and had no advertisements. But it isn't: its a smart one, collecting data on its users constantly, and making that information available to anyone who wants it to push possibly misleading content to its users.


I don't know, ethics? Why is it not ok for me to forcibly shoot you up with psychedelics anytime you come into my store? Probably because you didn't consent to it and it's potentially dangerous. There is a reason why you have to sign wavers before participating in most studies.

There's plenty to pick from when it comes to FB's behavior, but...:

> FB running psychological experiments in the newsfeed [...] to see if they could affect your mood (definitely not ok)

I don't understand how anyone could have a problem with this in principle. At Facebook's scale any change they make to their website will affect people's mood in one way or the other.

Would you prefer they didn't do experiments and just rolled out those changes without testing and hoped for the best? That would also be a sort of experiment, the experiment of closing their eyes to data they know is there.

The trolley problem doesn't go away just because you close your eyes as you blindly flip the switch.

Now, if we find that they ran such an experiment and found it was more likely to make people sad but also to spend more money we'd have a stand to criticize them.


It wasn't A/B testing, or testing a feature, it was psychological study (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full) whose goal was to manipulate emotions - not measure the effects of Facebook features on emotions. There was also no informed consent for the users.

How can the goal of a study be to manipulate emotions, not to measure the effect of feature X on emotions? I haven't read the paper, but the abstract barely even claims the latter. Honest question.

In principle no, but in execution, yeah sorry no. FB completely dropped the ball. When you have that many users you can't just go let me experiment and see if I can make people sad. The range of people on your service is too high for that. All it takes is one suicide that can be accurately tracked back to someone in that segmentation and FB is fucked, deservedly.

For something like that, the name of the game is informed consent. Let people opt into or out of the experiment. That's what people conducting an actual study would do. Not just randomly start experimenting on the public which is essentially what FB did


Well, sure, Facebook are a bunch of tech bros without any real interest in ethics. But I think the point is, they played that way right from the start - and most of those things are just what everybody does. It's not a story when an tech company tracks you when you're not even using their product. It's just ordinary operating procedure. Everything that's been aired about facebook is a bit like that - in real terms, obviously awful, but in the world we live in? It's hardly chopping up a journalist and putting him in a suitcase. It's milquetoast, everybody-in-SV-is-doing-it stuff.

So color me revisionist, but I smell a rat when it makes the headlines.


I mean if all of SV is doing what FB has been accused of, that is a story in and of itself. Maybe FB does typify or even exemplify SV tech bro culture but just because companies were once able to play hard and fast with the rules doesn't meant it's behavior that the rest of the world is okay with. Startups are mainstream now. And with all that new attention and money comes scrutiny because you aren't just operating out of someone's garage anymore. Move fast and break things doesn't fly anymore when the things you can break affect millions to billions of lives and dollars.

This is just incredibly revisionist. Do many people actually believe this crap here? In SV?

Stop jumping in front of the rotting corpse of FB. No Software firms hires right-wing PR firms to propagate anti-semitic conspiracy theories. They have repeatedly played fast and loose with the laws. With the amount of revenue and influence under their control, they're no longer a tech-startup that creates wealth by innovating/discovering a useful technology or service. They're a media company with tremendous influence, and need to be treated as such. Which is why the press is trying to hold them accountable. Open your eyes and stop imagining conspiracy theories where none exist.


This is a great example of defining deviancy down.

> Suddenly, everybody is absolutely horrified by the fact that Facebook is selling people's data

Facebook does not sell data. Facebook simply provides a platform for advertisement and to their credit because of the scale of facebook its easy for people to run ad campaigns.

Other than that I absolutely agree with the arguments here. Traditional media is hardly impartial or even a good source of news.


Dude, that's so disingenuous to say the media is reporting on Facebook because Facebook told the media to "take a hike". Facebook still has the users and could still pivot but this denial is hurting them at this point not helping. The media is a whole separate problem and still make lots of money from Facebook.

I'm no big Facebook fan, and as much as I like the idea of an impartial media, Every new facebook hit piece has seemed like a non-story run by a PR firm rather than an organic story.

I wonder if it's even some mix, an organized PR attack that makes the number and depth of stories seem a critical mass, and so the rest of the news gangs up on them cuz it's the trending topic that gets the eye balls, self fulfilling prophecy, etc..


"Selling people's data" is a very abstract concept. As technologists, we are able to imagine concrete implications. Everyone else brushes it off as they've "got nothing to hide" until hit with the actual repercussions.

Maybe someone hired Definers to do hit pieces on facebook. that would be beautiful irony

> You're making it seem like the press is circling Facebook out of some undue desire to turn non stories into breaking news but that's far from the truth.

When I worked in television, for 10 years in the 70s, the news reporters were former newspaper journalists who were hired for their news gathering abilities and not their good looks. In network television, the news department was a separate, independent division from the entertainment division and did not fear marketing or ratings for the stories they wrote. None of the above has been true for a long time and television "news" is as much about selling advertising and appeasing sponsors as any entertainment you see on television today.

Does the press turn non-stories into stories and circle them like shark? Absolutely they do! And having a conversation with my nephews fiance who works for one of those network television "news" divisions disheartens me even more.

Today one needs to do what newspapers and televisions in the past did themselves. Vet the information and use stories that matter. It is now we the people who have to do the vetting and editing to find who and what we will believe but there are far, far too sources making it far too much work and most people will just rely on the most entertaining. Popular magazines and fun TV anchors.


If media outlets were reporting on Zuck's love life or just rehashing known stories with inflammatory headlines you'd have a point. But even the stories on FB's interpersonal drama has been of significance. Take for instance the stories on the departures of the heads of What's App . That easily could have been played for cheap entertainment value but instead serious journalism was done to show the public that these people who agreed to billion dollar exits selling to Facebook left money on the table because the company was no longer an organization they wanted to be apart of.

I don't disagree with you that the drama at FB plays, but that doesn't make it any less valid journalism. There is more media today than there has ever been. It's not all up to the same standard. But the reason FB can't manage to get out of the spotlight is their own fault. Maybe they close ranks and right the ship eventually but there is something going on at the highest levels of that company that is off and the media is going to keep investigating until they get to the bottom of it because that's the whole point of the profession. Yes it absolutely plays, but there is also a whole lot of substance to it.


> It arguably has the influence to swing elections and shape public discourse

This used to be a power that was held only by a small oligopoly of mass media corporations.

> And it has always been the press' job to hold powerful figures and companies accountable to the public.

The question is, "who watches the watchers?".

Prior to the explosion of the internet, the narrative consensus established by the mass media was the truth, as far as most people knew. The voice of Walter Cronkite might have well been the voice of God. The press, itself, was seldom held accountable to the public, save from a few propagandists or, at best, contrarians like Noam Chomsky who usually had some particular ideological axe to grind and some biases of their own. (Chomsky himself was very self-aware about his place in the world at the time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent)

Now we live in a world where there are a million Noam Chomskys for each Walter Cronkite, and the Cronkites are getting scared. Instead of the seemingly benign and well-hidden biases of the mainstream media, we are bombarded with obvious, radicalized biases from a plethora of outlets, all with varying levels of honesty.

> Facebook has been, especially over the past few years, at best an amoral actor. That has to be news. It has to be.

Facebook built a platform for disseminating media. It's a platform where propaganda can be disseminated to people at a very high level of granularity and precision. It's a platform that lives in a place where national borders have less meaning, enabling bad actors to cross these borders. Facebook talks about making the world more open and connected. It turns out that the world is a terrible place and there were good reasons to be closed off and disconnected from certain parts of it!

The issues discussed above arise because Facebook optimized for easily measured and monetized things like engagement, and discovered some unintended consequences, so now they're being called on to address those consequences. Maybe they and other social media companies should block fake news, or incitements to violence, or political advertising, or female-presenting nipples, or whatever. The problem is, Facebook is a monopoly, and if you have a mass media monopoly acting as the arbiter of truth and social harm, you've just made matters much, much, much worse. This solution also doesn't appease the legacy mass media, which themselves used to be the arbiters of truth, and are loath to relinquish that power to some nerds in San Francisco.


To be fair if people's opinions can be swung by what they read on ome single platform, people are not being too smart here. This is different from the usual "you cant trust the internet" rhetoric. You can, you but you just need to ensemble your information sources. Treating websites individually as a weak source of information can prevent the bubble effect. And if people get swung by FB then those people are morons.

Nice and friendly comments always rise to the top about FB because Zuck pays for PR. Why wouldn’t he game HN too.

It's possible but I think you are vastly overestimating how much rest of the world cares about HN.

Also note, "Facebook hired PR firm that wrote negative articles about rivals: NYT" [1]. Really makes you wonder how much news is actually corporate propaganda. Reminds me of pg's article called, The Submarine [2].

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/14/facebook-hired-pr-firm-that-...

[2] http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html


A lot.

Many non-"hard news" articles are spawned by PR agencies or PR arms of large companies through relationships with journalists or non-stop pitching of ideas to reporters and editors. They may be disguised as a human interest story, profile, or something else lighthearted. The Sunday New York Times is filled with them.

They're not hard to spot, though. Some are obvious (a profile of celebrity X, who happens to be releasing a new movie).

A casual mention of BigCo or a BigCo product is another giveaway. Example: the sudden flurry of articles about the ISS robot this week. Oh, look, it's powered by Watson!

https://www.google.com/search?q=iss+robot+watson&


See the classic 1928 short book Propaganda by Edward Bernays, early public relations specialist. Bernays estimates around 80% (or around there, I don't remember) of news articles are placed by PR agents. And he explains how and why they do this. http://b-ok.cc/book/814789/06bb6e

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” ― Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Absolutely correct, and I’d say that these people serve as a dampening mechanism on public emotions. Once you remove them out of the loop - like social media does - you lose this societal stability.

Huh... like the amygdala of the social mind?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala


Doesn‘t the dampening just take place at a lower, maybe local level with social media? I mean it‘s basically an extension of the local sphere and peer to peer relations.

Let's see: The current NYT front page, top to bottom until I stop caring:

6 x GHW Bush

2 x "Wisconsin Republicans Approve Stripping Power From Incoming Democratic Governor"

"Facebook..."

3 x CBS' Moonves showed dick to actress, tried to get her roles to keep it quiet, lied to investigators

3 x New data on World-Wide Greenhouse gas emission

Trump/China

OPEC Meeting

Markets down

"The Best Movies Of 2018"

None of these come anywhere close to what Graham describes, i. e. "Dude Ranches are the New Trend in Gender Reveal Outings" or whatever. Except maybe the list of movies, where it's generally understood that reviewers enjoy the luxurious bribes that are free tickets (and still dare to publicly rubbish films, with no discernible trends that neatly align to some production companies figuring out how to reliably buy good reviews)

You can make this conspiracy theory work by insisting there some groups that profit from each of these stories, in some convoluted scheme. And most of these groups probably engage in PR, because everyone does. But then you have just arrived at a useless truism.

So what's the purpose on insisting that everything is manipulated, and that there's some dark powers scheming to manipulate us, apart from the smug feeling of superiority? There's a point where critical thinking just becomes nihilism.


Lifestyle and trends probably more so. Though if it's a pub like the NYT, they're at least calling some other sources to get some other perspectives and confirm that the pitch isn't total BS. Of course, the further down you get in the journalism food chain, the less direct knowledge reporters have of the topics they're covering and the less time they have to weave a story together from a lot of different inputs.

There’s no magical one-asshole-at-a-time rule.

No, but only a really special kind of asshole can complain about media reports that happen to be true, while simultaneously acting as the primary vector for spreading and amplifying false, hateful and vile disinformation.

I love how you are turning Facebook's attempt to manipulate the media, which was exposed by the media, into a talking point against the media, and thereby furthering Facebook's agenda.

Yup. For example, remember how the New York Times wrote an entire article pretending that Facebook letting people view their friends' info on their smartphones using manufacturer-provided apps running on those phones was actually giving those companies access to that data? How they argued, with a straight face, that it was dishonest and an attack on privacy for Facebook to not make the setting which kept your data out of the hands of companies like Cambridge Analytica also force all your friends to install their app in order to stay in touch with you? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/technology/facebook-devic...

I actually had to narrow down my search in order to find this article in the haystack of every other media outlet on the entire planet breathlessly repeating the exact same claims.

(The press always do this, from what I can tell. They're so absolutely confident of their righteousness that anyone who doesn't also believe in it must be deluded, or irrational, or part of a cult, or...)


So what was false in the reporting? Do you have proof to the contrary?

The New York Times claimed that Facebook was sharing private data with Huawei, "a telecommunications equipment company that has been flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat", when in actual fact the data was shared with the friends those people had chosen to share the data with, via the smartphones in those friends' pockets.

Though I actually meant to link to the previous article in the series, which sets out the New York Times' astounding spin more clearly - this is the one where they claim that it was somehow an attack on user privacy to not make the setting which stopped companies like Cambridge Analytica getting all your data also force all your friends to install the official Facebook app to interact with you: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/03/technology/fa...

Like, in one part of the article they literally had network logs of their reporter's Blackberry device, after he logged into Facebook on it, pulling down information from Facebook which he was authorised to access directly to that device - and they presented this as though it was proof that Facebook were being incredibly dishonest in not treating it as though they were giving Blackberry, a third party, access to all that incredibly sensitive personal data. They took advantage of the fact that most people are too technically clueless to understand that Blackberry in actual fact didn't have that data in any way, shape or form, that it never left the pocket of the person who was granted access to it and they knew it.


> that it never left the pocket of the person who was granted access to it and they knew it.

How do they (you) know that? How hard would it be for Huawei or Blackberry to exfiltrate that data?

What that and other incidents show is that Facebook had a widespread pattern of sharing data and trying to control the reach of that data through contracts and legal power rather than actually controlling it. This strategy makes leaks inevitable.


While it was likely easier to exfiltrate data this way, you can rest assured that if they want to exfiltrate it, as the producers of the hardware and the firmware, they can easily do it.

They control the kernel. They can read it from the screen, from the app memory, from the TCP stream with a minor patch to the TLS code. Seriously, the "how do you know" rabbit hole has to start from first principle.

You don't know. And the special API made is easier if it did happen. But it was not an enabler or anything - if they wanted to, they did it without, before, or with Facebook's help.


You could flip this around and also say that otherwise rational, sane people are irrationally defending a corrupt, click-bait/profit driven media.

Yes, that's an obvious move. Binary thinking usually does result in an increase in hyperbolic statements on both sides.

There might be better moves to make, though.


> otherwise rational, sane people

Calling people crazy for disagreeing is a sure sign of being trapped in an echo chamber. This happens a lot when a politician breaks ranks with their party. You start to see the "suddenly <obviously sane person> went crazy" narrative.


You know how people have been warning us about unrestrained AI? We already have it, and "the press" is an example of one (so is facebook).

The press is a gestault that can ultimately take actions beyond what any individual component is capable of taking. Facebook is a threat to the press, and of course it is working to protect itself.

The problem was when we gave the press access to the internet. It was capable of acting more quickly than it was before.


It's funny to me because in my experience, the media is who popularized the use of Facebook and Twitter in my country (Greece). No one cared about MySpace or Hi5 (which was at least as popular as FB at the time the TV programs started advertising FB).

It isn't just the next story the media is after. They are in the exact same business as facebook now. And any form of leverage might come in handy.

The topic or integrity of stories isn't even that important. The focus is engagement and attention.


Well when the platform you created essentially destroyed the free press, that'll likely be their first target.

So Facebook finds it normal to secretly collect information about users' calls and tons of other information but doesn't like when someone publishes information about their shady deeds.

Press is not doing even a thousandth part of what Facebook has done to others.


It’s not just a story they smell, its $40B in advertising the traditional media is losing to Facebook in addition to people using FB as a news source — once the domain print, radio, and TV.

Ex-Facebooker perspective: the only news in this article is that the preferred replacement for the Secret app [0] at Facebook is the Blind app.

A few of the 33,606 people [1] working at Facebook anonymously complaining about their employer and management in the midst of a bad press cycle is remarkably unsurprising.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_(app) [1] https://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/


Do employees at facebook really feel the heat? I'm just picturing management trying to find solutions (or to wait it out) while most other employees must be mostly going on with their work.

In the end, most of the critics seem to miss the point that Facebook grew really fast, and just wasn't ready to police the world. A lot of it focuses on the negative aspects of Facebook conquering the world, but what about the positive aspects? Is there another app that, indeed, connects the world?

It might not be clear to people here, who are not heavy users of Facebook and reside mostly in the US. But for me, I have hundreds of friends scattered around the world and Facebook has been the only way to keep in touch with them.I've met so many people through Erasmus groups and Communities on Facebook as well. No, the alternatives are not everywhere in the world.


most of the critics seem to miss the point that Facebook grew really fast

Growth rate is not an excuse for the evils that have been enabled by Facebook. It is perfectly within Facebook's power to slow its growth to a rate it can actually manage.

And don't play the "shareholder" card. Zuck is the majority shareholder, and can do whatever he wants with the company, including making it not be evil.

Is there another app that, indeed, connects the world?

E-mail. The PSTN. Text messages. Actual mail.

WhatsApp, YouTube, and probably several hundred others that I don't know about because I'm not much of an SMS person.


WhatsApp is owned by Facebook

[flagged]


They keep their facebook account, until they don't. Large numbers of people have opted out of facebook in recent years. Just because it's been around for a few years, doesn't mean it is permanent. Nobody is finding me on MySpace to stay in touch (at least not in the last decade...and even then it took me a year to see the message because I hadn't logged in in longer than that), and while facebook has proven to be longer lasting than MySpace, we don't have enough evidence to say they'll be relevant in ten or twenty more years.

Also, I've had the same cell phone number for approximately 20 years (and I only changed the number then because I wanted one with an area code in the city I was doing business in...which seems like a quaint requirement today). I am legally allowed to take my number with me when I change carriers. I have no legal right, or technical means, to carry my facebook profile URL with me if I move somewhere else. I hate phones, but if we're talking about longevity of connectivity...phones do alright compared to social networks.


> Large numbers of people have opted out of facebook in recent years

It is still a minority in my personal experience (which is what matters for me).

> Also, I've had the same cell phone number for approximately 20 years

I think you're probably a few generations above me, probably none of my friends still have the same phone number, I know I've changed a dozen of times in the last 10 years. It's easy to keep the same cellphone number if you live all your life in the same country, but that's not my life or my friends life.


I quit facebook in 2010, so don't take me for any sort of fanboy, but what 'evils' were 'enabled', specifically?

It looks like most of the election stuff was normal humans reposting things of their own volition. Yeah, there were lots of lies in it, some of it was actual fake newspapers being run out of Macedonia or whatever, but are we making facebook a scapegoat just for being the medium? Before 2016, I never heard anyone saying FB had an obligation to fact-check political speech..

Maybe we, as a society, need to figure out how to handle social media rather than expecting a guy like Zuck to do it for us.



I didn't know about that, thanks for the link.

Here's my beef, though: People still did that. Facebook isn't your daddy, and Zuckerberg will never be a different person.

Facebook isn't the problem. We are.


If you know how to manipulate 1% of the population — never knowing who, in advance, just that it’s on average 1% — and you sell that power to the highest bidder, I’d totally argue you’re responsible for whatever the winner does with that power.

Especially if you go to great lengths to keep the bidders anonymous, or even merely allow them to make themselves unknown to you because “we can’t scale that”.


> and you sell that power to the highest bidder

You make it sound like FB knew that the accounts that "...posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes" were run by a military operation.

> because "we can't scale that"

And how would you scale that?

I don't think there is any easy solution (or even an "ideal" solution).

Not to mention that FB is on now dealing with actual dam military operations by an authoritarian government. How would you defend yourself against that?


> And how would you scale that?

If I was Facebook, ot if I was a government?

If Facebook: First idea, probably naive, is to require large minimum spending per advertiser so that all can be checked manually.

If government: I’d pass a law requiring all advertisers be checked to some standard, which is what I care about, and let Facebook invent its own solution.

I want to be clear: I don’t care if that bankrupts them, any more than I care about bankrupting surgeons who can’t afford soap.


But it doesn't sound like Facebook sold anything here?

Obviously in hindsight some posts should have been censored and accounts banned to prevent violence, but I'm honestly not surprised they failed to.. We're expecting some dweebs in the valley to understand Myanmar social dynamics?


> We're expecting some dweebs in the valley to understand Myanmar social dynamics?

If they do business there? Yes! If they cannot hire people who can understand it for them, that is still a problem. If they merely forget, that is still a problem.


If Facebook was warned since 2013 that they're a conduit for genocide and give exactly zero fucks unless it becomes a PR problem four years later then, well, I would call them a festering, evil karbunkel of a problem.

Facebook is directly responsible for mass murder (not only in Myanmar, but feel free to look up Sri Lanke, The Philippines, Cambodia and probably a few other countries).

The "Well, Facebook is only a medium and those evil folks could have performed their genocide with the help of postcards" excuse really doesn't cut it.

They knew for years and didn't do shit! Let that sink in...


Both are, if you ask me. WE are just as bad. The demand drives the supply, in fact.

Please look up how Facebook enabled the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

Even without Facebook, what's preventing Myanmar's authoritarian government from flooding their own media with propaganda still?

> Do employees at facebook really feel the heat?

Yes. At every social gathering, every online forum, etc. where I mention (or people already know) that I work at Facebook, the most common reaction has gone from "wow cool" to harsh glares. It interferes with all of those relationships. I know a whole lot of people will say "you deserve it you scum I hope you die" but I'm not here to argue deservedness. A question was asked, and I'm answering. Yes, we feel it.


I don't work at Facebook, but Facebook rented multiple floors at my last office building. It didn't help that the employees were by-and-large thoughtless and rude (spreading out in elevators if they were in groups to discourage people from piling in, rushing to get through a door in front of somebody carrying a bunch of stuff just to make them stop and then not holding the door--extremely consistently), but nobody was too worried about making sure they were out of earshot before wondering aloud if they enjoyed making the world worse.

Aw man, made an account to answer to this post cause I'll plead guilty to doing this a few times.

Especially on my way into the office in the morning or after lunch I've been caught up in a problem I'm solving, an approach I just discussed with someone, an idea, etc and have walked into the elevator without realizing there were people inside.

This is in an office building where FB rents multiple floors and is tight on elevators, so I think we might be talking about the same office and I wouldn't be surprised if I maybe I did this before. It's also the first time I'm living in the city, so I did get elevator etiquette wrong a few times when I first moved in.

I never heard any comments about the making the world worse though. The people in the office tend to be quite nice. I did meet someone in the elevator once with whom I had a good conversation about lunch options at the different companies in the building.

In any case, I do suggest pointing it out next time something like this happens. It might be people like me (or me!) who just aren't always aware of their surroundings. And it case this was me, have my retroactive apologies.


Off topic I know but I think this is a group thing, rather than fb specific.

Seen lots of groups display inconsiderate behavior in public, to inconvenience others. Most common example - small group spreads across a pathway to force passers by off the pathway to get by. Always thought it was more of a unconscious dominance sort of thing.


Will you also confirm whether or not the heat that you’re feeling is actually causing tensions? I’m having a hard time grasping if this article is simply sourcing disgruntled employees.

Nope. For one thing I don't think my sense of that is much better than anyone else's (I'm not based in a major office and don't spend a lot of time reading the internal groups). For another, I'd like to keep my job. Sorry.

Probably not in a direct way unless you work in PR, but yes. Part of the allure of working at a major tech company like Google, Facebook, etc was being able to brag that you worked at shiny company. Now the shine is off, and your friends and family aren't enthusiastic about it anymore and may even be asking you hard questions. It's not a great feeling. As others have mentioned, the stock price is down, so your compensation is significantly lower. Management is distracted by these problems. Recruiting is probably a bit harder. For many of Facebook's younger employees this may be the first time they've seen a company face adversity like this, and their identity may be wrapped up in working for Facebook. Working at Facebook is still a good job, but I'd imagine that there's lower morale in general, and that turnover has increased because of these issues.

> Do employees at facebook really feel the heat?

Two words: Stock price. A big part of compensation is in stock.


This is the really bad part about equity compensation in a publicly traded company. When that stock starts devaluing rapidly it runs past even your "worst" jaded future predictions, and then it is depressing.

Back in 1998 when a company I helped start was acquired by a publicly traded company, and by 1999 the stock price was over $100 and everyone was feeling "super good" about the future. The internal dialog goes something like this, "This may be an anomaly but damn! even if the stock drops to 50% of its value I'm still doing great!."

In my case the stock dropped in value to below a dollar a a share, 99%+ drop. That feels really really horrible, especially if the future doesn't have anything in it that would rescue or recover the value. Even though there was nothing that I personally could have done (legally) to change the outcome, as an engineer and a person who solves hard problems, it made me feel like a total failure. Like I had let down my family, my friends at work, and people who I knew who had bought stock in the company as a sign of confidence in me.

It is really hard to understand that kind of feeling until you've been through it I think.


Why would you hang on to your own company’s stock if it is publicly traded? That seems like “Enron-ianly” bad financial planning. You are already super-exposed to the company’s health by virtue of being employed there. Why add additional exposure by owning/keeping its stock too?!?

Stock compensation at a lot of companies (definitely at Facebook) is in the form of RSUs, which are shares of stock that vest over time. So employees vesting X number of shares over 4 years are watching those shares go up and down in the public markets without actually having the ability to sell them.

That's not an accident: the reason stock compensation is given is to further align employee interests with the long term performance of the company.


Sorry, yea I was talking only about vested stock. Obviously you can’t sell something you don’t own yet.

Isn't there a secondary market for the RSUs?

The point is that they are not vested. You don't own them until the time restriction expires and you're still employed.

Nope

I can't speak for everyone of course, but for the companies that I have worked for, where I held equity, and the company was publicly traded, there were some strict controls over when and how employees could buy or sell shares, and three of them forbade any sort of option trading on the company stock. When being acquired there were even more restrictions on the stock that I received in exchange for my 'founders stock' in the original company.

Or did you have a specific scenario in mind?


It needs to vest before you can sell it.

This is often what people think, but almost everyone I know at IPO'd places are at least partially vested. They want that sweet upside and for a while it works and everyone is getting rich together.

I had to work long and hard to convince a friend of mine to diversify at least half of his investments away from Shopify which was his only asset.


That doesn't conflict with the real fact that most employees have most of their equity tied up as deferred compensation that they cannot sell until it vests.

sell it short now, cover with the vested shares :)

Most companies contractually restrict employees from shorting their own stock.

I don't know about Chuck here but I've met a number people who had stock stuck in the lockup period when the bust happened.

If they’ve been there for longer than a year and a half I doubt most are sweating. They’re still very much up since grant price, plus they get yearly bonuses and refreshers.

> A lot of it focuses on the negative aspects of Facebook conquering the world, but what about the positive aspects? Is there another app that, indeed, connects the world?

I would argue that Twitter does a much better job of connecting the world than Facebook.

Have you tried quitting facebook? I found it the easiest of all the social networks to leave because there's pretty much nothing to miss about it. Are you really gonna feel distraught over missing the bajillionth picture of your high school friend pretending to like holding a baby? Or fake macedonian garbage shared by your most racist family member?


I don't post on facebook, and rarely read posts on facebook.

But Twitter can _not_ replace events, groups and messenger.


A portion of the heat is probably from their peers/friends/family outside the company since the company has such a negative stigma right now. Another portion is due to the fact a significant portion of their income is tied to the market value of the company, which is now back at Feb. 2017 levels and declining, both due to the negative press cycle and bearish long term outlook by the market.

> Is there another app that, indeed, connects the world?

My web browser.


I personally haven't felt much heat. It used to inspire more wonder amongst my acquaintances back in 2017, and I could brag more about it. Within the US most comments I get are around the stock as jokes around losing money.

I've still had people ask me for referrals, be interested in what I do and think my job is cool-- just not as much as before.


> Do employees at facebook really feel the heat?

No, they are still rolling in money. If that ever changes, then FB are in trouble.

Until then, carry on everyone.


The sources here appear to be leaks from a group that is the internal equivalent of 4chan and former employees who have an axe to grind. The portrait painted from them does not match the reality I experience day to day in any meaningful way.

Reality is most people work where they work because of the money...few are thinking philosophically about the moral/ethical implications of their work. The only reason stories like these might be interesting is because tech had up until now been perceived as this anti-Wall Street destination for smart people with a conscious. Now, it's clear people who choose to work at FB and other tech giants are not necessarily any nobler, and just as greedy, as those who choose to work at Goldman Sachs or Bridgewater.

The reality is that the tech industry, specifically the ad-tech industry, has had its Lehman moment and now the bloom is off the rose. Facebook and Google are increasingly going to be regulated and subject to more scrutiny going forward. That's just the reality of it.

You're not going through anything unique. There were plenty of bankers that felt that politicians, the press and the public were being unfair to them.


> There were plenty of bankers that felt that politicians, the press and the public were being unfair to them.

Weren't they? One rule that pretty much seems to be a law of the universe is that popular sentiment will be completely wrong on almost every particular point even when its conclusions are completely right.


That's what Jim Sterling keeps telling the game industry: regulate yourself (e.g. loot boxes), or you will get regulated sooner or later.

How does a company have an "internal equivalent of 4chan"? I want to hear more about that.

Like, I want to meet the person who said “you know what this successful publicly traded company needs? More 4chan.”


Look up Blind. It's a gossip app where you need to sign up with a corporate email, thus creating verified but anonymous chat rooms for employees.

Wow. People actually trust those kinds of systems?

No way I'd give my corporate email to give blithe and scathing criticisms. What's their data (in)security like? Do they sell that data off? Blackmail your job if they got desperate?

Yipes.


Surely one should take anonymous sources with a grain of salt until they have multiple confirmations from other news sources, but I think your jump from "anonymous" straight to "4chan" is unwarranted here.

What is your experience of how employees are handling the barrage of major public scandals then?

Big tech company surveillance culture is well documented[1] and the outside pressure against FB seems INTENSE.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/16/silicon-v...


> What is your experience of how employees are handling the barrage of major public scandals then?

For real problems, like Cambridge Analytica or the recent API token breach, by trying to fix whatever is broken. A lot of the other scandals honestly don't seem to have any basis in reality that we can discern, so we spend a fair amount of time looking puzzled, then shrugging and getting back to work.


The media portrayal of Facebook feels roughly equivalent of how Microsoft was seen ten years ago. The tech industry seems to live on these ten-year rollercoaster cycles in perception. (Zuckerberg isn't Ballmer though – I don't think he's going anywhere. Besides, although the tech press likes to credit Nadella for everything because it makes for a convenient rags-to-riches, Ballmer laid the foundation for Microsoft's present success.)

> People are “hoping for a Sundar or Dara moment,” one former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News, referring to past leadership changes at Google and Uber in which founding employees stepped aside from top jobs. A second senior employee echoed the view, suggesting that some inside the ranks are looking for a shakeup to come from the outside.

Ballmer to Nadella would be another example.

For me, this hints at an interesting shift in tech culture, away from the unquestioned mythography of the original founder. Typically the departure of the founder has been seen as the biggest challenge for evolving startups, and the return of the founder as a moment of salvation. Think of Apple, or Twitter.

Now, there are examples of where the departure of the founder acted as a release valve for public pressure, and a chance for the company to reset and evolve.

Or maybe it's more like an addition to the culture--a new set of stories that illustrate a different path for startups toward long-term success.

This might also reflect a shift in how the public views tech companies. They're not just fun, harmless get-rich-quick stories anymore. The consequences of their success (intended or not) weigh more on people's minds.


I don't view Sundar as somebody who has any power over Larry.

When Eric Schmidt was the CEO, he had his own opinions, but whenever Sundar was asked any question on TGIF, he was just looking at Larry to see if what he's saying is what Larry wants to hear.

Sergey doesn't really care about politics, he just wants to do cool stuff.


Also the fact that Larry is the CEO of Alphabet. Sundar is the CEO of Google. Therefore, Larry is still the real CEO.

This is my favorite part:

Another former senior employee noted a growing sense of paranoia among current employees. “Now, people now have burner phones to talk shit about the company — not even to reporters, just to other employees,” they told BuzzFeed News.

Facebook employees so afraid of Facebook spying on them, that they need burners. Presumably, not loaded with any Facebook apps.


More likely just phones without access to facebook's internal corporate network, which grants many more privileges to the app and the company than everyday facebook access gets. They likely also dodge accounts connected to the one their employer recognizes.

Calling these "burner phones" is a little silly. They are just completely private, non-corporate phones.

I've never trusted any company to either pay for my own phone or plan, if that requires allowing it special access.


Calling these "burner phones" is a little silly. They are just completely private, non-corporate phones.

So a phone used to duck surveillance from a powerful entity to conduct discussions about things you don't want that entity knowing about, colloquially goes by what other name then?

I get it if the implicit association between a "real" burner phone and these devices might not be a complete and perfect parallel but I think here the term is apt (unless we're legitimately just talking about someone's every day personal phone, but that wasn't the impression I got-the article doesn't really talk more about what these devices are)


They don't duck surveillance from facebook as you and I know it, but from facebook as an employer, which is very different.

If a company provides your phone, then it has access to it, and if you don't want your company to have access to what you do on it, you use a different phone. If you want the convenience of a personal phone that you can check your work mail (or work facebook groups) on, then you grant access to that company.

It isn't any different from when a law firm or bank provides its employees phones. If you don't want that firm or bank to read what you write on it, then you need another phone.

A "burner phone" gets thrown away--"burned"--to prevent the someone from tracking you. You don't allow anyone to know you use it.

No one at facebook cares if you use a second phone. So some better terms would be "personal phone" or "non-corporate phone".


If a company provides your phone, then it has access to it, and if you don't want your company to have access to what you do on it, you use a different phone. If you want the convenience of a personal phone that you can check your work mail (or work facebook groups) on, then you grant access to that company.

Right, and as I said in another comment, my statement here isn't to suggest I don't know what a burner phone is. My statement above is because I'd think someone would either say "We use our personal phones" or something similar to describe how they talk about FB without FB knowing it.

Describing your personal phone as a "burner phone" seems odd and possibly telling that there's something else there.

There very well might NOT be, but as I mentioned before: the article doesn't really say much further so it's hard to know.


> Describing your personal phone as a "burner phone" seems odd and possibly telling that there's something else there.

Doesn't seem odd to me, in the context of a) a former employee sensationalizing the situation and/or b) hiding behavior from any employer.


Next you will tell us that Trump really had his "wires tapped"...

> A "burner phone" gets thrown away--"burned"--to prevent the someone from tracking you.

I would see this as a tertiary characteristic of burner phones that is certainly optional. Almost every usage of "burner phone" you see in media, film, and print, is used to indicate a phone that is unmonitored.

Queue scene of FBI in room with monitors showing camera views of Jason Bourne talking on a phone. "He's got a burner" is more likely to be said when Bourne is talking on the phone, not when he's throwing it away.


>It isn't any different from when a law firm or bank provides its employees phones.

But the law firm and the bank aren't in the business of snooping on cell phones. Facebook is. I've had phones from both a firm and a bank. They didn't look at what someone was doing without cause and they had very strict procedures to follow to get permission to even look even though it was a company phone.


A burner phone is one that you intend to discard after using it to conduct some clandestine, often illegal, activity. Just because a phone is private doesn't make it a burner.

Often illegal, but not always. Prudent travelers use burner phones when they cross borders in order to avoid dragnet searches by customs.

A burner is a phone you intend to discard if it becomes compromised. Just because you don't have to burn it doesn't make it not a burner.

It is not when compromised. It all depends on your threat level and what you are using it for.

Some people use once and burn, some burn one a day, or once a week, and some -- like you said, burn when they think it is compromised.


Because you will definitely know when your phone is compromised.

So then this most certainly isn't a burner phone situation, because Facebook employees wouldn't actually "burn" these phones.

Facebook gives employees corporate phones. It seemed to me that these "burner" phones were just personal phones sensationalized for the article.

At my last job I was given a corporate phone as well as my own personal phone. Some coworkers decided to do everything on their corporate phone. I chose to keep the two separate, but I wouldn't say that I was using my personal phone as a "burner".


It seemed to me that these "burner" phones were just personal phones sensationalized for the article.

Definitely do not want to rule that out, you're right to bring this up, but agreed. Calling your personal phone a 'burner', seems novel? Not sure if there's a better word there.


> So a phone used to duck surveillance from a powerful entity to conduct discussions about things you don't want that entity knowing about, colloquially goes by what other name then?

A "personal device"


Surely you jest.

> So a phone used to duck surveillance from a powerful entity to conduct discussions about things you don't want that entity knowing about, colloquially goes by what other name then?

Yes. A burner phone is a device you use once or twice, then dump (burn). I seriously doubt bookface employees are dumping their personal cell phones after sending a couple shit talk messages to their friends about their employer.


> So a phone used to duck surveillance from a powerful entity to conduct discussions about things you don't want that entity knowing about, colloquially goes by what other name then?

A non-corporate phone. “Burner phone” is something very specific and refers to prepaid phones without attached identity at the network level. Which, as the name implies, can be “burned” (discarded) after use.


Meh, typically burner would be disposable. He’s arguing you don’t need to ‘burn’ this device after using. It’s just a normal phone that you can keep using.

Burner-like if it works better for you.


He’s arguing you don’t need to ‘burn’ this device after using. It’s just a normal phone that you can keep using

We don't know that as a fact, do we? In this specific case I mean, I know how burner phones are used, but we have from the piece an interesting nugget that isn't really fleshed out.

Maybe the employee just used 'burner phone' to get the point across quickly of the lengths employees were going through, maybe it's an allusion to something more but it's a nugget I found interesting nonetheless.


> Calling these "burner phones" is a little silly

Calling a personal phone your "burner phone" is silly. But if you work at Facebook, you're aware your personal phone may be leaking data. A phone purchased specifically to talk about things you don't want Facebook to hear is roughly accurately described as a "burner," even if it isn't discarded after use.

(Broadly speaking, this is a prudent step for whistleblowers to take. Buy a cheap phone, turn off all non-essential services, and install Signal.)


You have a high quality phone given to you from the company you work. Since you don't trust your company, you fell the need to buy another phone that will depreciate in a couple of years. You also need to carry another brick in your pocket or purse. Just to be able to talk freely. Sure it is a burn phone.

I have wifi access when I'm on my company, but I don't feel the need to buy another phone just to be able to speak freely.


> I don't feel the need to buy another phone just to be able to speak freely

If you aren’t whistleblowing, that’s reasonable.

Companies have every tool available to pursue NDA breachers, trader secret stealers and insider traders on their hands to chase whistleblowers. Phones are cheaper than heavy litigation and the threat of prison time.


Even when a company gives me a phone, I keep my personal.

If you leave a company unexpectedly (which can happen), it's good if you don't give up the ability to be contacted.

I made this mistake in my twenties, and never again.


Good point. When a company gives you a phone, can't you mantain the number when you leave?

Sometimes that isn't possible (unexpected leaving). That's when you'll really value the personal phone. Some companies are dicks about it also, which can be a concern.

>Calling these "burner phones" is a little silly. They are just completely private, non-corporate phones.

there is significant difference.

Private non-corporate phones are usually connected to your name just by virtue of you having an account with cell phone provider in your name or activating the phone in a way that still naturally leads to you.

A burner is typically cash-based bought/prepaid phone activated without any direct/indirect connection to your name or any other of your accounts/profiles/etc.

Given the power of FB (and money involved - i mean every scandal moves like $100B of valuation - the cost of one year war in Iraq) i think it is very reasonable and prudent of its employees to use actual burners not just private phones.


>> Calling these "burner phones" is a little silly.

I agree, but it's still not as silly as how many people are commenting in here about whether or not its ok to call it a "burner phone" lol


I've seen first hand people high up in startups monitoring what their employees say in assumed-to-be-private chats to each other. Technically it was part of the employee agreement that nobody read.

It's not a perfect, but one way to tell that the startup you're in is monitoring you is that they hand you a computer with your login already created. If you're opening up the Apple box yourself then it's much more likely to be free from keyloggers, etc. But don't trust shared sign-in stuff like Google Apps for Business to be private.


It always amazes me how many people are willing to bash management over work chat. Like... you can be 99% sure they're reading that.

Absolutely not 99%. More like 1%.

I suspect that the more likely you are to moan about the management, the more likely (1) the management wants to look at you because you’re always negative, and (2) the more likely the management wants to look at you because they’re the sort of control freaks that you want to moan about in the first place.

I’m glad I don’t have that problem.


I've never trusted any company to either pay for my own phone or plan, if that requires allowing it special access.

Lot's of companies provide a limited scope Wifi access for contractors, vendors, etc, when on campus. The level of insight might not be as high but the host company can potentially still track things like local network traffic without requiring "special access" beyond Wifi usage. If the FB employees don't want to acknowledge the existence of these phones then they are definitely "burners".


Any phone with mobile device management (MDM) like SecureWeb or "Good" or others, can see at the least, all the apps installed on the phone, as well as the ability to remote wipe phones. Don't know if they have the capacity to read data for individual apps.

And if you have your employer manage your phone plan, I assume they have access to your call records.


It is a burner phone. What's silly is you have to use those techniques to discuss office politics with your coworkers.

Is it? I do the same thing. My 'burner phone' is my personal phone that I use 24/7 for everything, and I have a separate work phone with default VPN required, etc. It's not really a burner phone.

> More likely just phones without access to facebook's internal corporate network ...

Do you know that or is it just a guess?


Facebook provides all employees free phones with corporate device management and data plans so I can see why.

It's pretty understandable. My last job was in ad tech, and as part of the employment agreement, we effectively signed away our privacy rights through a clause that effectively waived the privacy rights on any machine that interfaced with any thing related to the company. Problem was - how does someone make the distinction between viewing an ad for work purposes and viewing it for work? Not to mention the company gave very reasonable incentives to use your own phone for work, etc.

Don't use your own equipment for work then. It's your employer's responsibility to provide the resources needed for your job, not yours.

Well, yes, but sometimes it's not that simple. For example, when the oncall person is unavailable and you get an emergency work call and only have your personal laptop on you.

It is that simple, though. Your management structure needs a better on-call strategy. Or needs to both compensate you for, and indemnify you for the use of, your personal gear.

I don't work there anymore, but I'm genuinely curious why you think that's simple. In theory, absolutely. In practice, though? Trust me - I tried to get a better on-call strategy. You're making a lot of assumptions there without knowing much about the company, their management structure, etc etc etc.

Why is it simple? Because you should never, ever need to use personal equipment or other resources for work use. If you're on-call, then the company should be providing the equipment needed to do those on-call duties, and pay for phone and internet charges accrued. If you're needing to use your personal stuff, then there's a problem, and the first thing to do would be to communicate this to your boss, and get the necessary equipment provisioned, be it a laptop to take back, or something else. Implicit reliance on your kit isn't even in the company's interest--what if it broke down, infected a customer with a virus or whatever. They and/or you might bear some liability for inability to provide service or to provide a bad service.

Let me explain: if you want to read your work email and access work files on your personal phone at most large companies, you need to install a mobile device management app like Lookout, Microsoft Intune, etc. These have deep spying permissions on your phone. Burners are just a phone without that.

Don't know why you would want to do that on your personal phone. I ain't reading any work stuff on my personal phone, even if they are willing to pay for it. Let them give me a work phone if they think it's important that I have access to work stuff on the go, outside the office.

Absolutely. What I find slightly disturbing is that there are plenty of people who are more than willing to do this with their personal property. What's worse, I've had some of them rage at me for arguing against it and refusing to "comply". I don't like that weakness become the norm, and then enforced. The company has no rights to one's personal property.

That's why surveillance technology is so dangerous. The environment (company, government, people... ) changes but the tech surveillance capabilities remain.

Facebook engineers know exactly what surveillance powers the company has, and how easily those can be exercised.


I have the same preoccupation about internal wifis at my past 2 employers.

Slack I always consider as something my employer can see freely.

For other means of communications, when I am on a company device and private network, I also have some paranoia that conversations are not private.


It's right there in the small print for the Slack terms of service. Any private communications can be observed by the company paying for the service. It certainly made me think twice about ever expressing any opinion in personal chat, and in fact reduced my use of it in favour of face to face talks.

Portable WiFi VPN devices that masquarade with your phone wifi MAC aren't just for cruise ships anymore

They only need to slip up once and connect to facebook for it to unmask the employee from their device. I highly suspect they are not as anonymous as they think. Especially if they are connecting to an internal guest wifi at the office. You can get so much from metadata that you almost don't even need to know the content. Guess it all depends on how good their internal logs are at connecting wifi access macs with facebook logs. I'd wager it's pretty good as they already do this type of stuff to guess who your friends might be based on access proximity.

I recently man-in-the-middled a smartphone (I won't mention the manufacturer) for work purposes. It was factory reset, with no apps installed (other than what ships with the phone). Started hitting Facebook APIs within seconds of each boot. I had no words.

So it must be the default OS - why don't you reveal the manufacturer? Clearly an FB app in some form is bundled.

Companies like this should be named and shamed. It's the only power we have as consumers.

I don't disagree, but I didn't find this in my capacity as a consumer - I found it in my capacity as an employee of a wireless company that has a relationship with this manufacturer. Since I'm using my real identity on here and I've mentioned who my employer is in the past, I don't feel at liberty to divulge anything.

Clearly an Android, since Apple removed that weird Facebook/Twitter integration in the early days.

They don't even have to slip up. If someone they are communicating with does, they'll be found out.

All FB employees have a phone provided by Facebook with MDM software.

I work here and I've literally never seen or heard of this happening. It's just FUD.

First rule of burner phones: don't talk about burner phones.

Just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean it's not happening.


It also doesn't mean it _is_ happening.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Except on HN when it's about this year's boogeyman.


Eh, people are strange about their privacy.

When I worked in adtech, I had a flip phone up until the point that my boss made me get a smartphone so that I could get hipchat. It's believable to me, because I was only inches away from having a burner phone myself.


I'm pretty sure they'd have no problem setting up their own cell towers at the facebook campus/offices.

I'm sure some are using BlindApp, but that app is not very censorship resistant.

The quotes from Blind are laughable and completely destroy any hints of journalistic integrity in this article. It reeks of desperation for any type of quote that supports their narrative.

I'm a heavy user of Blind since its inception and it is nothing but a cesspool of anger and bitterness. It's fun if you want to blow off some steam and engage in mass trolling, almost like 4chan with its memes, but if you believe for one second that any sort of honest discussion can occur on that platform, you are delusional. It's literally the worst of the worst, and only people who enjoy trolling will engage on that platform.


Aside from the trolling, there's real conversation happening about culture and compensation that doesn't happen anywhere else online. Be the change that you want to see.

I will not name him, but I had a friend who worked at Facebook. At one point, he talked shit about the company to another employee in a facebook chat. His HR representative quoted said chat at him in a meeting.

Facebook will claim that this is ethical because your Facebook account is linked to the work systems and therefore your chats are company property. I will pass judgement - even if it had been talking shit on a purely internal chat application, such as a corporate slack, it would not be okay for HR to bring up talking shit - They would need to have had a dang good reason (A complaint from the other party of the chat that you had made threats, reason to believe you were discussing illegal activity or actively causing the company harm). What Facebook did was absolutely immoral, and it is clear that it is standard company policy.


When I worked there 4+ years ago, all employee:employee facebook messenger conversations (on production www.facebook.com) came with a little red circle, with alt text saying "employee to employee conversations are recorded".

So I wouldn't have been surprised by this in the least.


But isn't it creepy that they were proactively monitoring them and reading for negative comments? Then reprimanding the participants for feelings they expressed privately to another individual? That's behavior one might expect from North Korea.

>> At one point, he talked shit about the company to another employee in a facebook chat

I've been telling my kids not to bitch about their teachers in public, as there is a good chance they will eventually be overheard by ... their teachers.

Come on, grow up! Don't say anything bad about your employer via your employer's systems. Ever.


I don't condone what Facebook did, but I can't believe anyone would trust them not to.

It doesn't take much for a "darling" social media or dotcom company to become a thing of the past. If my memory serves me correctly, before Google, there was AltaVista https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AltaVista . Before Facebook, there was MySpace https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myspace . Yahoo is on it's way out especially after the data breach https://money.cnn.com/2017/10/03/technology/business/yahoo-b... Facebook is NOT the only social media company around and some other company WILL emerge and fill its place in the ecosystem if they don't recover from their mistakes.

they were all replaced by better alternatives, not by bad press.

What is interesting to me is that previously each turn-over has been at a much smaller scale. The internet has grown so much and become so much more ubiquitous since AltaVista and MySpace, that seeing a social media giant begin to "turn over" today is rather spectacular and awe inspiring.

The problem is that facebook has so much money, that they can just buy any startup that might threaten them.

> People at Facebook are focused on building products that help people connect and have a positive impact in the world.

I don't remember seeing that last part before! Does this mean that they don't want to connect people who (they believe) will have a negative impact on the world?


I think "have a positive impact' is referring to the products, not the people.

Facebook has/had a near-religious devotion to the idea that connecting a globe of strangers is inherently good. I strongly disagree.


Boz's 'the ugly' that got leaked is probably the best well known documentation of this cult. My whole time there it creeped me out.

It's kind of ambiguous. Could be "products that (help people connect) and [that] (have a positive impact in the world)" or "products that help people (connect and have a positive impact in the world)."

I also noticed that it has only one meaning as written, but two meanings if another "that" were added. If it weren't a company spokesperson providing a response "on the record", I'd say it goes either way. But someone who is paid to be careful with his/her words may be doing just that.

I'll be curious to see if this pops up again in the future.


> “Again [it's] the female card that has caused so much damage in such a short time, not just at Facebook,” another poster wrote.

I don’t think I’ve ever read such a deeply toxic comment in my life. On the surface polite, but underneath such a corrupt worldview. Good on Sheryl for just surviving in an environment with people like that.


Definitely a disagreeable comment (in my opinion), but to say it's the most deeply toxic comment you've read in your life? First day on the internet? I come across worse on a daily basis, and I'm not hanging out on 4chan either.

Not saying this to nitpick or attack. I just wanted to point out that exaggerated outrage fuels the trolls and tends to make reasonable people tune out. I think it would be sufficient to simply state it was "a negative and misguided comment".


Fair call ^

"I don’t think I’ve ever read such a deeply toxic comment in my life"

I find this pretty hard to believe, you must have read something on the internet more toxic than that!

I don't think the person being quoted means what you think they do, unless you assume the absolute worst about them, and I don't see how we have enough information to make a judgement one way or the other about this persons worldview.

In the previous paragraph we read another quote from the message boards “One does not simply fire the author of ‘Lean In’ and pretty much the sole female executive in top leadership,”

Isn't the part of the culture that is truly toxic that she is "pretty much the sole female executive in leadership"?


On your first point, yeah I agree, previous comment called it out.

Agree on the last point too.


Should women be able to "play the female card" to get something they otherwise wouldn't have?

Should men be able to "play the male card" to get something they otherwise wouldn't have?

You either say yes to both, or no to both. If corporate politics has cultured an environment where there is even such a thing as a "female card" or a "male card", then that's a failing.


[flagged]


How does one explicitly "un-play" their male card then? I'm male, and if I have implicitly played mine I'd love to reverse that to do my fair share to give women equality on the workplace.

I suspect when you say that the male card is automatically in play, you aren't referring to something that men are automatically doing, but rather some facet of the system that favors men. In which case, changing the system is the correct approach, not introducing unbalanced social norms approving of women "playing the female card".

I also suspect that even I am taking this "play the card" analogy far beyond its usefulness haha. I'd much rather talk about actual systems or behaviors in concrete terms that broker little room for misunderstanding.


> How does one explicitly "un-play" their male card then? I'm male, and if I have implicitly played mine I'd love to reverse that to do my fair share to give women equality on the workplace.

It can come up like, turn down a game of golf when women aren’t invited, or invite them. Suggesting people who aren’t like you for teams as well.


With that male card we see companies where every male employee is automatically CEO and play golf and sit at the beach and all the lower level employees are female and forced to do all the work, like a scene from a slave plantation.

I can honestly say I have never seen this mythical company, and if it existed then the wast majority of the bottom 10% of the population would no longer be male.


You're building a strawman. An example of the male card is having every resume with a female-sounding name get extra scrutiny to make sure they're qualified. This is backed up in artistic fields by what happens when they move to blind auditions[1]:

> Blind performance auditions, much research has proven, often results in the hiring of more women and minorities because it eliminates the opportunities for bias to influence who makes the cut.

The point is not that there's a cabal of evil dudes scheming to exclude women. The point is that on a subconscious level many people stereotype each gender as having a specific set of roles. This biases their evaluation of the individual's performance.

An analogy: I have an alt account on youtube (to try to dodge Google's tracking) that has the gender set to female. When I'm logged into this account I get endless advertising for cleaning/laundry products, air fresheners, and diet solutions. This is despite the fact that my viewing habits are still those of a 30+ year old male developers and video game fan: coding talks, gaming stuff, and lets plays. Google's algorithms decided - based entirely on my set gender, and despite ample evidence to the contrary - that it should advertise stuff I obviously don't care about at me.

All I'd like you to consider that it's at least possible that the average hiring manager in a tech company carries the same kind of biased assumptions about what a female should be interested in and good at.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_audition


Such studies that show society treating women and men different based on expected gender roles has been done multiple times in many fields, and if we call that male and female cards then we must accept that for every place where a person can make a stereotypical assumption based on gender role then that is a place where one gender is favored and an other is disfavored. One prime example of those is with the justice system, where a male-sound name get found guilty more often and get harsher punishment because they don't get to automatic play the female card, as backup by blind testing at the subconscious level.

The average hiring manager has indeed some gender expectation. Based on some fascinating recent study done on judges, I would expect to see a major difference in how rational judgement a hiring manager do based on how long time it has been since last time they ate. The lower their blood sugar level are the more likely a person are to use shortcuts in their thinking.

Note that this has nothing to do with the belief of a "patriarchy", nor can it be translated into power cards that get played in some zero sum game.


[flagged]


It's really funny how the claim of "identity politics" gets applied to pointing out inequality, but never to inequality itself. Was red-lining not identity politics? What about white flight? How about the gender pay gap (say in it's historical form if you choose to believe that it doesn't exist anymore), that's straight up identity politics, no? Oh! How about Japanese internment during WWII. That's obviously identity politics!

The US government has engaged in identity politics for pretty much all of its history (consider the rhetoric about the "migrant caravan" today, or the way that every elected official has to at least pretend to be Christian). You don't get to rail against identity politics as if it's something SJWs came up with in the last decade.


That is nonsense. Go ahead and advocate for redlining or internment and watch how quickly I’ll call bullshit on those as well.

I'm sure FB has their share of James Damores.

By that, do you mean people who write memos to discuss ways of reducing discrimination as well as attracting and retaining more diverse talent?

No.

In that case, you might want to read Damore’s memo. It’s not what you think.

I didn't say there were more memos, I said there would be plenty of his way of thinking.

But the point is that would be a good thing.

Whose point?

I don't think it's toxic, it's an accurate observation. As soon as you let gender politics into the building, you've started an unwinnable war between the sexes that will ultimately rip your company apart. It's very telling that the people commenting on this have to do it with Blind as they're obviously afraid of voicing their opinion in public. That type of fear is only going to fester and grow.

Same with the comment from the black ex-employee about how there are more Black Lives Matter posters than actual black employees (which I don't doubt for a second). There is no way to play these progressive games at work that won't come back and shoot you in the foot from the left, right and center. Keep politics out of the workplace.


Also: the comment about posters was intended to criticize the lack of black employees, not the abundance of posters.

...which makes your take, i. e. That removing the posters would solve the problem sort of funny, in a very depressing way.


Removing the posters solves the problem of injecting politics into the workplace. If there’s also a racism problem, that would need to be dealt with on a case by case basis. I took the original post by the black ex-FB employee to mean he saw the posters as meaningless virtue signaling that had no effect on what he saw as a racism problem at Facebook.

[flagged]


The absence of political activism is not a political statement.

lt very well can be, both:

* Silence is consent.

* If you know what is good for you, you will be quiet.

Are political.


You're stating that it's literally impossible to not be political. I don't agree. You can very well keep politics out of the work place. A ban against any political statements accomplishes that.

Congratulations, you seem to be experiencing http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html. I'm not sure why, though.

Suppose you work in a factory that you learn primarily makes nerve gas. Continuing to work there is a political statement.

Unless you can't get another job and need that job to support your family. One of the many reasons politics shouldn't be injected into the workplace is because many employees have no option but to have that job and now you're subjecting them to political battles they have no choice but to endure. In the case we're talking about, the politics don't even have anything to do with the host company, they're a foreign agent in what would be an otherwise apolitical environment.

Silence is consent.*

Wait, what? Are you sure you want to assert that? Because that's going to make things really complicated for the #MeToo movement.


[flagged]


"Silence is consent" has a long established meaning: if you do not object to something you can be construed to approve it.

I understand what you're saying just fine. I don't think you're picking up on the issue I'm drawing attention to (and I'm choosing to ignore the misogyny comment - come on, you're better than that). Think about how this statement sounds when we apply it to what is perhaps the biggest issue today that is related to discussions regarding consent. You can't default to two opposite positions here, and I'm pretty sure after only a moment's thought you'll agree that we're better off sticking to the rule that silence is very much not consent.


I don't see why you are taking this line. The topic was not sexual abuse, my comments are not about sexual abuse, obviously the statement about consent has a very different interpretation in that context. But we were talking about working at Facebook and not speaking up. Why are you mixing these topics?

Blind is a cesspool of racism, sexism, and general stupidity. Best and brightest indeed.

Really? Do you think that women simultaneously being the victim and being empowered, the company bending over backwards to increase female numbers and create special awards/events specifically for women won't create some frustration among the innocent male employees who have to pretend like they have to change the way they act around women to avoid talking over them, watching their time around women ( things like saying "Id love to go out but my ball and chain won't let me go"). The slightest criticism against women needs to be considered through a lens of misogyny and if it's plausible you keep quiet. It's just as simple as ignoring whatever the diversity efforts say about you and the situation at work. Don't divulge even a glimpse that you aren't along for the ride. Honestly sometimes silence or lack of enthusiasm makes you suspect.

It's very obvious that gender equality being achieved in the workplace is not via reduced discrimination, but by hiring women at a very flexible bar. It's so painfully obvious in my organization and frankly im embarrassed for the qualified women who are getting tarnished by the changes.


"Id love to go out but my ball and chain won't let me go"

Or maybe you keep such shitty things to yourself and the painfully obvious is visible to anyone but you.


Honestly don't see the problem with that line. I can't imagine how many times a woman has referred to her husband as another one of the kids to take care of.

Its not shitty, its insanely normal (and its a joke) and youre just being dramatic.


Again, maybe you’re missing the painfully obvious when honestly not seeing any issues with that line.

He isn't.

People are hiring more women because it improves performance and productivity [1].

It is true people would expect you to “change the way you act” so as not to make women literally uncomfortable around you, how outrageous that you should have to do this.

> The slightest criticism against women needs to be considered through a lens of misogyny and if it's plausible you keep quiet.

> It's very obvious that gender equality being achieved in the workplace is not via reduced discrimination, but by hiring women at a very flexible bar.

Wrong on both, and you have no evidence to support this.

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter


Not agreeing with OP, but citing single studies is often pretty misleading. It is better to look for meta studies because the outcomes typically vary considerably, so you cannot be sure a single study is reliable.

Here are two meta studies based on 20 and 140 other studies, respectively, and they only find a weak to no link between gender diversity and productivity, so neither does the science prove that gender diversity is particular beneficial, nor that it is harmful:

https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amj.2013.0319

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...


"Does it make somebody feel uncomfortable" is a terrible standard to use when deciding whether something is OK or not.

Growing up Mormon, I felt extremely uncomfortable when co-workers drank alcohol in the office, even in after-hours social contexts. Does that mean I had a legitimate grievance to ask those around me not to drink?

We can certainly come up with gender neutral standards about what kind of speech or activities are OK and which are not OK, but if we go with "does it make women feel uncomfortable" then we also need to extend it to "does it make Mormons feel uncomfortable" and "does it make polyamorists feel uncomfortable," and so on ad infinitum.


> People are hiring more women because it improves performance and productivity [1].

I think the hbr article has cause and effect backwards.

It’s obvious that wealthy stable high margin businesses can afford to focus on diversity initiatives.

If we were actually confident that diverse teams were better then gender and race would no longer need to be protected groups.


Look, I am speaking from personal and anecdotal experience, however its so blindly obvious for myself and coworkers. The amount of dissonance between my beliefs and my actions at work feels like a micro scale version of what life would be like under a surveillance state. The difference in openness between the two large groups of people that have opposing views at work are massive. Both groups have smart people, both groups have good intentions, the ones that are silent are not silent because they hold chauvinist views, they are silent because the other side is actually bigoted.

I wish you could do a study on it, but you can't right now.


You're wrong. I've participated in it, multiple times, due to a mandate from upper management, at a well known company.

I don't know how to get through to people who are absolutely convinced that people who claim it's happening are just being paranoid insecure sexists leading to biased assumptions, and I don't understand why their mind refuses to consider the possibility that these people are correct.

Is it even surprising? Of course it's going to happen. Everyone is getting sued over this, and there is activism and PR wars everywhere. How do you think companies are going to respond? Nobody wants to be next, so they have to increase representation. Executives cannot actually do anything to increase representation, other than set goals for their employees to carry out. That is how execs manage. By the time it gets down to the rank-and-file, how to do it doesn't matter. They know it needs to get done, and nobody wants to be the reason that an exec's goals are not met, so they will just make it happen. This happens with goals all the time, and number of women hired is in no way different. Remember when Microsoft told shareholders they were going to get 1 billion devices running Windows 10, and what they started doing to forcefully upgrade machines? If the rank and file resort to force installing Windows to meet that goal, how do you think a company like MS are going to handle meeting their diversity targets? Or Wells Fargo with their account opening scandal that was motivated by executive goals for numbers of new accounts?

This sucks for everybody, but most of all for the people it's supposed to help. Now, those who did meet the bar look just like those who didn't meet the bar but were hired as tokens. Looking the same would not be an issue were it not for identity politics.


You've captured my thoughts on this to the T. I feel people are too emotionally involved to have rational, civilized, productive discussion... but for very very understandable reasons. After all, the whole topic of identity politics revolves around, well, one's identity, and self worth and livelihood.

It's hard to separate one's ego from something as visceral as that.

It's easy to posit that those unaffected could form "more objective" observations when emotions are not in play.

I say this while aware of the potential biases inherent in both of these statements. So what can be done to better approach this? It's hard.


> People are hiring more women because it improves performance and productivity

> those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Let's play spot the difference...


>so as not to make women literally uncomfortable around you, how outrageous that you should have to do this.

One could make a similar argument for not calling out racism to avoid making people uncomfortable.

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