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[dupe] Facebook staffer sends 'blood on my hands' memo (bbc.com)
123 points by danroseai 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 121 comments

There was a previous discussion of this yesterday based on a Buzzfeed News article about the same memo: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24474343

But the title with the word "blood" is more attractive.

when I went to university in 1999 it was my dream to work at a company like microsoft, then google. then i realized that big tech is just a way for those in control of society to control us more efficiently. i feel for those who just want to put their head down and do the work. nobody thought they were going to CS school to enable the exploitation of less lucky others. but now we have facebook, amazon, palantir, google, microsoft et al doing whatever their doing, not with the benefit of society but for the benefit of society’s owners. as a tech person, that makes me extremely uncomfortable, and someone who hasn’t figured out even a personal route around the problem, much less a societal one. god bless us all.

>as a tech person, that makes me extremely uncomfortable, and someone who hasn’t figured out even a personal route around the problem, much less a societal one. god bless us all.

Work for a boring company that provides a core service and does not ruffle feathers or cause trouble to society. I write Angular/Python apps for a company that sells payroll products. Its not the sexiest job in the world but the company needs tech people, it operates pretty ethically, I am paid reasonably well, and the team does not cause unnecessary stress day to day.

Government tech jobs are probably similar depending on department. You probably won't be contributing to the downfall of society in many govt branches but instead providing a reasonable service to society. The pay is probably less though.

Fair, but nothing is disconnected in this world. Your company could be serving some unethical company that does really bad things and at this moment you would invoke same reasoning people who work at FB about like "someone would be doing it anyways" or "there is no way to do this kind of due diligence" or "we just do X and not responsible for Y". It's not at the same scale but you get what I mean, no one is pure.

This is fair. I have thought of this as well. As a response, I spent the last year and a half volunteering for multiple progressive challengers to established candidates. After a massive amount of effort: we won some races, lost many, and came close in others. This is a way to overcome some of the negativity caused by external forces influenced by my company.

The thing that that depressed me the most is how little the population cares about improving the country. They are checked out and don't see all the problems that they can fix. So it has led me to also question, why I am wasting my time instead of working on myself and what I can do to better my own self. But I guess that's a separate discussion.

Isn't this looking at the past with rose colored glasses though?

Time before using computers for business was terrible with much less transparency (no Googling prices, etc). Paperwork got lost all of the time. Companies could easily bury things, etc.

Agreed, imo transparency, accountability, and general corporate "goodness" are probably at all-time highs. The thing is the public's level of awareness of the remaining shadiness is also at an all-time high, so it can feel like things have gotten worse because we see more of it, even if the amount of things that go unnoticed has gone down.

Newspapers charged $1 per word for classified ads.

I'm still pretty young in my career, but I feel like I've figured out my own route around the problem. 3/4 organisations I've worked for have been NGOs, and I felt like I was doing meaningful work in all of them.

The one that wasn't an NGO has been by far the worst one. Worse salary, worse perks, worse problems I've solved, and while I didn't do any work I considered to be unethical, I'd definitely refuse some of the work my colleagues did.

I kinda wish more techies would look at the NGOs as a viable alternative to the corporate world and do some work that's actually meaningful to the society. Granted, the supply of jobs in the tech field isn't big enough for everyone to switch, but the jobs are there if you're willing to search for them.

That is interesting, what sort of NGOs did you find to have the most socially meaningful and ethical work available?

Personally, I'll always feel exceptionally proud of working on Panama Papers. My work was in no way particularly important to the project (just implementing some frontend), but it set such a high bar on meaningfulness so early in the career that it's going to be very difficult to top it.

Over all, I feel like EDRi (https://edri.org/) is doing exceptional work over here in Europe. Think of EFF, but instead of being one organisation on a federal level, it's made of a bunch of smaller organisations that work in different nations on intertwining issues, be it net neutrality, reverse engineering Big Tech's algorithms, or helping the citizens exercise their GDPR rights. It's a small front against the Big Tech, and they need as much help as they can get in order to put up a fight.

Many engineers I used to work with now work for Facebook. I wonder how they feel about it. Do they think Facebook does no harm? Do they think that their job itself isn't doing harm? ("I'm just writing spark jobs"). Do they try to ignore it because the salary conditions are so cushy? What amount of money is enough to ignore your conscience if you know that Facebook is part of the problem? Would I work for Facebook for 500k a year? 1M a year? I've heard as a reason "They have two kids, that's why they took the job, you'd do the same if you had kids".

I don't know. It's not black and white. Social media apps aren't creating poisonous ideas like the flat earth, antimask, or anti-vax movements, but they're certainly essential to their spread. They have also had a positive impact such as during the Arab spring a couple years back. Would measles have made a comeback in the US without Facebook? Probably not? Does that mean that Facebook is responsible for the resurgence of it? At least partially yes in my view. Did Facebook sway the elections in 2016? Probably. But so do journalists. What if Facebook swayed elections in a direction that aligns more with my views? Would I be as uncomfortable? I certainly don't have enough information to say "facebook good, facebook bad", but with the limited information I'm comfortable saying that Facebook is dangerous. My perception is that the negative impact of Facebook outweighs the positive; I can't prove it, but it's spooking me enough that I won't work for them. Maybe it's because I don't have kids.

Those are the fairly novel ways of exploitation. Finance, marketing, naked rent-seeking, and employment through temp/piecework have always been around, but technology has made them terrifying. And every single field involves mass surveillance.

I got into programming because I loved the machines and the abstractions, but I'm finding myself helpless because I can't make myself contribute to the goals of the people who want to employ me.

Yeah. And to have a good living, it helps to work at big tech. But if youre passionate about software, you are giving something up. sometimes I treat code like art, its my medium that I build things through. But im selling that, and losing out on that art, whilst building massive data collection and manipulation systems

To be fair, how many people can say otherwise? That you’re working for something more than money? Creatives? And people with “fk you” money? It’s ridiculously hard to go against the establishments and most people fail doing so.

One option is to work for academia on pure research, but you have to avoid defense applications which is tricky. :-( It's not for everyone though.

    > nobody thought they were going to CS school 
    > to enable the exploitation of less lucky others. 
When you were in university, the students who did think so were the ones who wanted to work on Wall St. A decade later, they all wanted to be the next Steve Jobs.

I think the main problem is that exploitative business-models and platform economies have not been fully analyzed/modeled yet by economists, so we can hardly expect governments to do something about the problem with new competition laws etc.

I was just following orders.

> just a way for those in control of society to control us more efficiently

OK QAnon

Here's the original article, with more direct quotes from the memo: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/facebook...

According to it, the full version isn't going to be released because it contains privately identifiable information.

I'm honestly confused. Doesn't the Buzzfeed article publish her full name and excerpts from her LinkedIn profile? Protecting the author's private info is a hard reason to swallow when they literally reveal the author's full name and LinkedIn profile.

The way I interpreted it is that she referenced private info on other people (or internal teams) in there.

I've been involved in politics and software a long time. I was an elected Hillary Clinton DNC Delegate in 2008. I'm a senior software engineer today. And I'm not sure Democracy will survive contact with social media. I have a solution.

1. Ancient History - Historically politics was a hobby of the elite. You had to go out of your way, sometimes into the cold to attend party meetings. The discussions were academic and professional. People who were involved in politics had their lives very much together, on both sides of the isle.

2. Social Media was invented. I had the opportunity to work with a very fantastic and kind person. My role in the organization was software engineer. This person's role was warehouse operations. Because of Social media this person, who would otherwise never be politically engaged, rocks social media all day long. With the advent of Facebook on mobile, this person tweets political memes all day long. This person spends Xor time on reddit, and "chan" sites. This person now represents the main stream. This person is awesome, but shouldn't be shaping policy.

3. Solutions. I have a number of ideas. I think we should move away from ideas such as ballot initiatives and direct democracy and embrace the fact we are a Republic. We need professionals to determine policy not the twitter mob. Another solution I would seriously implement is a rule. No politics on social media. If its political, flag it, delete it. This would take care of twitters toxicity problem, and facebooks foreign interference problems.

I'm spitballing ideas here, but I am not sure Democracy can survive first contact with social media. It's a mess. people are angry. If you work at one of these big tech companies, I'd love to know your take!

> Solutions. I have a number of ideas. I think we should move away from ideas such as ballot initiatives and direct democracy and embrace the fact we are a Republic. We need professionals to determine policy not the twitter mob.

Congress people and senators are professional policy makers. The problem is that if they acted solely in the best interest of the nation then they wouldn't get reelected. So what, is not having elections a better solution? Should there be no parties so that actual conversations happen and require a consensus? Should terms be limited? No clue. I'm not sure we as a society can fix ourselves without a major kick in the butt.

I wonder if the same concerns were raised when wireless was invented and news could spread across the globe instantly.

Wasn't that a new 'social media' of the time?

I find it repulsive that no one is discussing that the original author was doxed by a news organization and this was done after a "whistle-blower" leaked their memo to the news org. One person discussing something internally with their peers, and maybe trying to make things better, has their life ruined now because everyone on the internet knows their name.

It is Buzzfeed after all. The lowest of the low.

Facebook uses the term "inauthentic" while the memo's author and the BBC use the term "fake".


What would happen to Facebook if we do ban advertising from the internet?

Advertising itself is not inheritly bad: healthy socium needs product and price discovery.

Even targeted advertising, if done right is very good for both buyer and seller.

Bad part is data collection and predatory targeting, like for (rather mild) example “easy money passive FBA business” targeting aspiring enterpreners.

Why do all these types of leaks end up at Buzzfeed?

I've taken a hard line with people who work at Facebook. If you're still there and unwilling to represent the failings your company has done to society, then I need to hear a justification before moving further in the conversation. I don't think I've ever felt this strongly about a tech company.

I know that's tough but it's a matter of ethics. And frankly, Facebook is an amazing technical institution, and I would love to work with the majority of them based on technical chops alone.

I've put my money where my mouth is on this sort of thing in the past - I passed on an Uber employee who worked on the "god mode" feature and had no opinions on it making the news or its being abused other than "I was just building the feature". It made the news for abusiveness, at least have a little remorse!

So Facebook employees, please understand, if I ever meet you in a technical interview, there will be a five minute section for a hard "liberal arts" question politely lobbed your way :)

A couple of honest questions coming in. I would very much like to engage in a good faith conversation with you.

> ... unwilling to represent the failings your company has done to society, then I need to hear a justification before moving further in the conversation.

I'm going to replace 'company' with 'organization'.

Do you harbor similar opinions about people who have previously or currently work for a federal government? State government?

You mention 'tech company': do you have such opinions about people who have worked for, for example, IBM?

I look forward to your response, and I promise I'm not trying to trap or bait you in any way. Thanks.

Not OP, and I'm not sure I advocate for drawing such hard lines, but I hold a similar enough view that perhaps this will be of interest to you.

I do harbor similar opinions about people who have previously or currently worked for the government, or any organization that behaves in a way inconsistent with my ethical framework. I strive to see things as close to the shade of gray that they really are and act accordingly.

I more or less believe in free will and thus the responsibility for one's actions is one's own. The world is complicated and actions must be viewed in context. My opinion of someone who works for Google as a lead on their ad-tech will be worse than someone who works for Google X or someone who's on their first job out of college. My opinion will improve drastically if they leave Google on ethical grounds, or show remorse for their time there as an ex-Googler.

I think that on the surface level there are things big tech does are positive for society but the second and third order effects are frightening and negative in ways that are hard to bound. There's no way I can see to disentangle that from your personal responsibility for your actions that serve to advance their aims.

If you're hiring someone, it seems reasonable to ask about someone's ethical considerations to make sure they're in line with your company's. You're going to put a certain amount of trust in them. I, too, would be skeptical of hiring someone who didn't even recognize the tension of working for Uber or Facebook and both the good and bad things they have put into the world. I'm also not sure I'd draw such as hard line as OP, but I get where the line of questioning comes from.

I have worked for companies that do things I disagree with. I've thought about it and come to terms with it, even as I have expressed my disagreements when I believed it made sense to do so. I'd be happy to hire someone in a similar situation, because it shows they at least are aware that their work has ethical considerations.

I work in the security org now, and so I deal with a lot of exmilitary and exfederal employees. Considering that the military is a institution in this country that helps a lot of working class kids get education and training...

It really comes down to choices and consent for me. If you're in the military, that may have been the option for an 18 year old and certainly I wasn't thinking about ethics when I was 18. But if you're able to work at an organization with a high bar such as Facebook, surely you have other options - unless you're a new grad - the stark reality is that when you get out of college, you take what you get.

I would definitely be a little tougher on someone who joined Facebook (or the NSA) in the last few years and already had job experience (senior/staff level) versus a Jr engineer or someone who'd been there since before a lot of these issues came to light (although that raises the question: why are yo u still there?)

And, my opinion on Facebook has changed drastically in the past few years.

So anyways, it's really contextual and empathetic. I'm not just trying to "GOTCHA" some guy who joined the military out of high school before fully appreciating the ramifications of their actions (I wouldn't have!).

But if you have 10 years of experience in software and you go work for the NSA... well, I have some questions.

I know there's a lot of gaps, and I'm ashamed to admit I don't really have a strong framework - this is a personal failing, and something I've really been thinking about more recently.

edit: i got downvoted. I'd like to know what I can improve on, please reply, thanks. I'm trying to be better!

While you have a point about 18yo, it is very difficult to overlook the main job of the military: kill people. NSA flies below the radar or at least used to, but it is very difficult to not notice that the US military mostly come to foreign countries and kill people there. Even if you are a teenager.

However, with FB it is less obvious due to their fancy talk about community and shit. I understand your outrage about facebook, but I don't understand you can give a pass to people who essentially say: "I gonna kill people, it is okay, they are probably bad people anyway".

> it is very difficult to overlook the main job of the military: kill people.

Not really. Its stated job is to keep other people from killing you.

It's unfortunate and unjust that in many cases this devolves into pre-emptive killing. But for most sovereign nations, there's really no alternative to having a military.

Does it matter? Stated job of FB is to connect the community, allow you to share your life with your loved ones and so on. Stated job of NSA is to maintain IT security of the nation and perhaps hack foreign intelligence, not create a network of mass surveillance at home. But we judge them for other things, right?

>While you have a point about 18yo, it is very difficult to overlook the main job of the military: kill people.

Yes. And I have never been faced with someone with a long military career. If they were interviewing straight out of a long career, it would definitely fit into the "senior person" context as mentioned.

It's a tough question, for sure, but I don't think I would be able to shy away from it. I guess we'll find out if I'm ever in that position... I should probably prepare for if that ever happens.

My stance on this has been getting firmer and firmer the more senior I get. I honestly wonder if I'd have the presence or guts required to ask that hard of a question.

Thanks for your considerate response. If you don't mind, I'd love to have you expand on it a bit further.

Specifically, how do you feel about other government positions, besides the military and intelligence?

Reading your response, I'm getting the sense that this line of conversation is more about senior people with recent employment, which is sensible.

My main point is that big organizations....all of them....do a lot of different things and have a lot of different impacts. And many big organizations have extremely large impacts.

Some of those will be good, and some of them will be bad. But one way or another, both the 'good' and 'bad' impacts will both be very large.

Case in point: the US Government is an enormous and old organization. Nobody can rationally deny that it has done an enormous amount of both good and bad, and it's a matter of opinion and discussion as to which pile is larger.

Another example: IBM is a tech company that's old and has had a huge impact for a long time, both good and bad.

Before I get to Facebook, I'll note that it's widely held that all creatures, and humans especially, tend remember and weigh the bad quite a bit more than the good.

Facebook has created an enormous amount of impact over a pretty short period of time, nobody disagrees with that.

I strongly suspect this won't be a popular opinion, but I believe that Facebook has created, on the whole, more good impact than bad.

Before the reader reacts too negatively to that statement, please know that I personally consider technology/communication technology/especially social media technology to be among the top two or three most likely existential threats to human civilization.

I personally believe that Facebook was the first to take the inevitable next steps toward the now obviously dangerous territory we find ourselves in.

So, that's a tiny portion of my personal context.

I admit that your opinions made me somewhat uncomfortable, though I do understand where you're coming from.

I also admire your (somewhat risky!) transparency here.

Posts that were doing well have been getting downvoted pretty heavily in the last hour. I'm curious to know why that is, but they don't seem to comment.

Ah well, that's the nature of an open forum such as this.

I definitely think there's a bit of "sliding scale of accountability" that makes sense. I won't begrudge someone who worked for Amazon in the warehouse because it paid slightly better than Walmart or Home Depot down the road. But the higher up you are in an organization the more control you (presumably) have and so, in my mind, the more "culpable" you are for that organization's actions. That can still be difficult to suss out though, especially in an interview. A lot of hiring managers won't like to hear you "bad mouth" your former employer so even when people do feel their prior employer wasn't quite ethical I doubt they'd come out and say it. It's much more likely they'd dance around it if they address it at all.

I also think even highly ethical people tend to be overly optimistic about how much change they can bring about within an organization. Changing the ethics of a massive organization isn't nearly as easy as overhauling operations or implementing a new tech stack - and neither of those things are easy either!

Tim Bray comes to mind. I have no doubt that quitting was the very last arrow in his quiver to bring meaningful change at the company. He's a very intelligent guy, highly respected in his field, and has an entire career to prove he's a capable and creative problem solver. Imagine all of the other things he tried to do before he quit? And he made a noisy exit but I'm sure there are others who haven't and felt the same way. Even at facebook, too.

Yes, it's absolutely contextual.

At the very least, asking a softball question will help filter out someone I might not want to personally work with.

I actually think interviewing really sucks, because you spend an hour getting to know someone who you'll potentially spend 40 hours a week for years with? That's a whole separate topic, though.

> i got downvoted. I'd like to know what I can improve on,

I didn't downvote you but I suspect it's because you compared working in the military favorably to working for FB.

Well, frankly, there's a need on HN for "correctness" only. And I'm not sure what's correct. And I haven't faced some of the "hypothetical" scenarios posed here.

And if a resume came on my desk with something like what was posed, I would have to pause, and think. And think. And think.

Some of the posts in here actually worry me though. There's a real failing of ethical concerns and more importantly, ethical mentorship in our field. I'm a result of that. I'm not trying to "gotcha" FAANG employees or vets or anything.

Yes, I appreciate your position, candor and transparency here. Also, that you're apparently rather uncertain as to what's "right" and "wrong". As a civilization, we're sailing in very new seas.

The downvoting is standard HN holier-than-thou moralizing, but I agree that it’s not really a valid comparison.

A military is, for better or worse, a necessary requirement for maintaining a society that won’t get taken advantage of by others. While it’s easy to point to “job is to kill people”, that’s a simplistic reduction and many who are in the military will not do so. As much as one can be all Kum-ba-ya and imagine a Utopia in which armed forces are not necessary, life doesn’t really work that way.

Facebook is a form of publicly consumed entertainment, but unchecked they will happily fuck with people’s minds for more clicks/revenue, and they absolutely should be held to a higher standard than they are.

They two aren’t even in the same league when it comes to ethics.

I'd like to point out a few things.

First, the military is not a socialist organization, because the workers (soldiers) do not own the means of production. They don't have a say on where they fight and who they fight. The military is an arm of the bourgeoisie and is guided by the whims of those in power, not the people within the rank and file of the military or those who go and die.

Second, Yes, the military provides recruits with opportunities (e.g. postsecondary education, etc). But would they join the military without those incentives? i.e. If everyone had their basic needs met through redistribution of wealth, would they choose to go into the military? It's more like that they join the military, because it's one of the few ways of getting out of their economic situation. It's a form of coercion. It's the carrot that gets them to join the military institution.

Nice to see some personal responsibility! :) I feel like one really needs to take a deontological view on things like this. Much like voting, every person who quits their job, refuses to hire an applicant or build a feature on ethical grounds moves society a step in the right direction. Don't forget about your personal agency, if you work in SV you probably have TONS AND TONS of it.

You may be confusing “right direction” with “my direction”.

There was no detectable point of view in the comment you're replying to, other than that what a person does should be compatible with their own belief system. It's hard to see that as oppression.

I mean, I believe that there should be a Hippocratic Oath in software, but I'm not sure where your particular cutoff bar stands. My view of software is against the mainstream: most programmers should dedicate their time to build tools for scientists, to solve actual problems and advance our species. Current tech is mostly trash, useless and nobody needs it.

There is the ACM Code of Ethics, which includes:

> Contribute to society and to human well-being, acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing.

> Avoid harm.

The document is a lot bigger than the Hippocratic Oath, so includes a lot of points about Professional Responsibilities and Leadership, but at least it's partially aligned with that kind of thinking.


It's difficult to know what/where the line is for sure, but I think lots of software has shifted away from making people's lives better. Facebook, Amazon, Uber, are doing more negative for humanity than positive I think. Sure, they offer a service that might not've existed before, at least in that iteration or scale, but at what point are the negatives outweighing the positives?

Sure, you "connect" people to friends/family they may not be able to see in person or communicate with regularly. You're also verifiably playing god with information and misinformation, as well as spying on your users, selling their data to other people that want to spy on them, paying employees to view toxic content (which results in PTSD), etc. Is all this worth being able to communicate with people you don't really care about, or that don't really care about you?

>I'm not sure where your particular cutoff bar stands

I'm not sure either! I'm not an ethics expert. I think the Uber example and the Facebook example are real outliers. They're particularly egregious examples of abuse of people's information (letting people zoom in on people's walks of shame at company parties is definitely bad!).

This is absolutely fair. When I ask people coming from Amazon why they left, I am very carefully listening to whether they like how Amazon treats its people or not. If I were interviewing an ex-Facebook employee, I'd want to hear some discomfort with Facebook's ethics.

Not sure if it's reasonable to expect people to badmouth their current employer in an interview, especially when you don't know the result of the interview.

The last ex-Amazonian I interviewed managed to express his discomfort with Amazon without "badmouthing" anything or anyone. I was impressed with his diplomacy. We hired him.

So it becomes an interview of diplomacy essentially. Not really sure if that's ideal. I could see many false negatives of people who are technically strong, uncomfortable with their employer's ethics but still avoiding the topic so as not to say too much by mistake.

In this particular case it was an engineering manager position. Diplomacy is part of the job description.

That makes sense!

In 2021, studying for the interview will not be memorising algorithms, it will be memorising which past jobs to pretend to regret.

In my opinion, that's an unreasonable interpretation of: "asking a candidate how they feel about working on a product that made international news (in a bad way)"

FB people just make software that helps people to share thoughts. I don't see how they are responsible that people have wrong thoughts and share them. For example, Samsung makes TVs that are used worldwide to brainwash people and to share wrong thoughts. Would you also abuse former Samsung engineers at the interviews?

With all due respect: I think this thinking comes from a massive place of privilege. With the sea of unemployed entry level developers who would kill for a job with FAANG, getting into Facebook for the chance to earn that kind of money and work with such experienced people would probably be a dream come true for many of them. I have even met so many people with years of experience that are on the outside of the FAANG wall looking in with jealousy and longing. You can only act this entitled when you have met your needs career wise. It just seems wrong to cause trouble to others because they may have had this only chance to join the elite FAANG crowd and now they pay for it because of people with your line of thinking.

Yeah, I addressed this later on. It's very contextual. You're assuming/inferring there's some strict moral framework, and then I walk into that room and say "fuck you for working at facebook, get out of my face". No! I would never!

I would still ask a new grad the question, and maybe I would put more weight on the answer if they had made it to a senior role.

>It just seems wrong to cause trouble to others because they may have had this only chance to join the elite FAANG crowd and now they pay for it because of people with your line of thinking.

I have never worked at FAANG and I don't intend to, to be honest. I did pass on an offer at A, earlier in my career.

>I have even met so many people with years of experience that are on the outside of the FAANG wall looking in with jealousy and longing.

Well, if they ever get in and show up in my interview panel, they should be prepared for a softball ethics question. That seems like a small price to pay, tbh

> they should be prepared for a softball ethics question.

> That seems like a small price to pay, tbh

I don't think it is the question itself that's the price to pay here. The price to pay here is having to work in a workplace that the imagination usually paints for a company that would think that seriously scoring candidates on their answer to such a question isn't straight up ridiculous.

I.e., it isn't the question itself that would bother me. It is imagining what it would be like to work at a workplace where they ask these questions during interviews. If they ask it during interviews, they probably have discussions on this at the office all the time. While it might be desirable to some, there is not enough money in the world to make me tolerate working around people talking all the time about their ideas of morality and political views at work.

Which company do you work for again?

I'm interested to know too so I can avoid it like the plague.

We handle large amounts of sensitive personal information, and developers are tightly integrated into the product development process. We have successfully lobbied against products with serious spousal abuse cases.

If you can't handle a 5-10 minute question section in which I bring up contemporary criticism about your current employer, in the context of that sensitive information that we handle, then the feeling is mutual.

The people reacting like you have an awful take must have forgotten what story they’re commenting on. Personally I may not spend 5+ minutes on it, but the question will be raised, and only a well considered answer is getting the thumbs up.

I'm not looking for an apology, or remorse, or a sudden revelation. But an understanding of the work they do and WHY it might receive that perception is a "passing" answer, IMO.

I’m in agreement with you. On re-reading my earlier comment I realize it could be interpreted either way, but I meant “people reacting as if you have an awful take...” rather than “people like you have an awful take...”

Filtering for opinionated developers who proritize their political views and arbitrary moral compass over company policies sure sounds like an interesting strategy when it comes to handling sensitive PII.

I think you're reading into it too much and injecting politics. I don't know how else to describe it without de-anonymizing other than "it was actually bad and the PM who came up with it did a bad job designing the fraud cases".

A major one.


There is little reason to believe that. It could just as likely be sour grapes.

We can agree to disagree.

I hope so.

I wish I could give more information but maybe it's best to keep names out considering the context ;)

I mean, without knowing anything about you or your company other than what you posted above, it's hard to say. But in my experience the industry could use more morality based hiring standards, as well as morality-based repercussions for bad behavior. Kudos to you.

A lot of people in the US think "morality" also includes eg opposition to abortion. Do you welcome that sort of morality-based hiring as well, or just the morals that appeal to you?

A little odd patting someone on the back for claims with no substance. It’s easy to make up a story with all sorts of feel-good ingredients to virtue signal in a thread about a bad guy. If it was all unicorns and butterflies, why not name the company so the morally-aligned folk can find safe haven?

As I said in the other post of mine that you commented on, you're welcome to not agree with me (or anyone, I don't care), that's totally fine with me.

You’re welcome to disagree but repeating that doesn’t make for engaging discussion which is kind of the purpose of this forum. If you aren’t willing to defend your support of those who are subliminally attacking others, maybe just don’t post at all. It’s just not interesting and doesn’t add anything.

Frankly, because I just shit on Facebook in a public place around the hiring topic. These are all sensitive subjects.

And it would REALLY be shitty if some hack blogger posted the context-destroying "FooCo refusing to hire Facebook employees because of ethics concern"

This is an extremely unfair evaluation of software engineers. There's no such thing as a company doing ethical work, they all answer to shareholders and generate profit solely to benefit that class of people. Everyone else is the working class, trying to get by and without any ability to actually change the incentive structure of a company. We all work for someone who is screwing someone else, be it the consumer or your fellow coworker. It's all evil, and we are all doing the devil's work.

If you truly want fundamental ethical change, how about empowering the working class, so that we have a platform and the power to speak without reprisals? Then it goes beyond facebook, we can fight back against all types of abuses, ideological ones and the ones in the office. Can you imagine the kind of power we can have if we, in unison, shut down all our development work to fight for societal change? The government and corporations will bow.

Start a tech union, and let's see how far you get. That's a better answer than putting the onus on a single developer whose life is literally dependent on the company's continued employment.

Just don't be surprised that the company will do everything to shut you down, hard. And then you'll realize how ridiculous the evaluation you wrote above is.

(1) There are privately held companies who are not answerable to shareholders (certainly not a large group of them), and who may not even operate with profit as their primary goal.

(2) There are more nuanced definitions of "working class" which might be useful in this context. As much as I applaud class solidarity, there are ways in which software engineers currently are not subject to the same issues as other people who sell their labor to capital in order to make a living.

(3) Empowering the working class has not been a particularly successful strategy when done at scale, from a historical perspective. It seems more effective to focus on empowering people you know, the place you live, organizations that have something to do with you. "The working class" is, at this point in US history, far too amorphous and ill-defined a group, riven by division sown by capital in its own interest, to really be the focus of much empowerment.

Yeah really can't behind this idea software engineers are in any way "working class". Kind of an affront in my book.

> There's no such thing as a company doing ethical work,

A "Company" is the sum of the collective actions of its employees, board, and management. If that collective does things which are unethical—for example supporting repressive regimes—then that is unethical.

While some companies are borderline, there is zero doubt in my mind that Facebook is unethical.

I feel this way about lots more than Facebook. BigTech is committing atrocities every day, and the developers that work there are generally complicit in that behavior. I think it's fine to say "I'm not proud but the money was life changing" - that can be true, when most people are faced with that proposition would go with the life changing money. But it seems wild to think that Amazon or Facebook or Google employees should be applauded for their work, or should feel proud - lots of it is actively harmful to me as a human.


They will be fine.

And if I got your dumb question in an interview I'd walk out. It's obviously a politicised, hostile workplace.

If you take offense over a variation of "as you know [your company] made the news for being caught doing [horrible thing]. On your resume you worked on [horrible thing]. How do you feel about that?", then you have a very thin skin and also I would not want to work with you. So it would be mutual.

You sound like an absolutely awful person to work with.

Please make your substantive points thoughtfully and avoid personal attacks.


> I don't think I've ever felt this strongly

I'm sure that your employer loves your personal feelings interfering with hiring talent.

There's a great Warren Buffett quote on this:

"Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy."

Great quote. But I wonder if things are so dark at some of these companies that, for some positions, they actually need to find people who lack integrity.

I doubt any CEO would admit to utilizing people who "lack integrity" but are otherwise ruthlessly effective.

This is actually based on a classification system for military officers first outlined in 1933 by a German general named Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord.


Alternately they may own the business and calls the shots as they feel. I've personally found the most brilliant technologists often have very deeply held beliefs about ethical use of tech. If you want a cog to churn out code for your CRUD app, sure go for an amoral person who crank out 1k lines/hour. You want breakthroughs and brilliance, find somebody who thinks deeply enough about tech to have a moral perspective on the work.

>I'm sure that your employer loves your personal feelings interfering with hiring talent.

When I brought up my thoughts around the Uber candidate, I was supported by the people on the panel. One of them confessed that he had regretted not asking the question. It's part of the reason that I love working here.

If a team here built something like "god-mode" and it made the news for those levels of abuse... well, it would very possibly tank the company. It definitely hurt Uber. So it's not just personal, it's business!

is it really off topic to ask about past employment and ethical opinions of the work they did?

companies don’t just hire for talent. they hire for character too.

i don’t think companies expect hiring managers to hire people based on skill alone and put aside any character concerns they have about the hire.

Yeah, heaven forbid anyone pay attention to integrity and ethics when hiring. It's worked out well for wall st!

Exactly why we have interview problems in engineering. I respect engineers for having opinions and ethics and they should lean on them, but to bar one from employment because they were doing their job is wrong, immoral, and potentially illegal.

> because they were doing their job

Where have we heard that one before?

Not to defend the op, since I think they're taking a particularly hard line, but qualifying candidates based on their previous work is just something that happens.

I've personally been disqualified because I've worked at a legal, but "vice" based company - I've seen others not hired because their previous company was too "legacy", even though they did very similar work.

It's not necessarily right, but companies use the signals available for them - even if they're not 100% agreeable to everyone.

I'd like to emphasize the nature of the answer which was a defensive "I was just following orders".

At that point, I was conducting dozens of interviews a year, and I think that sort of question came up... maybe three times? One of those people was from a medical company with a very large and very embarrassing contemporary incident, and the interviewee and I talked about development process problems. In fact, they admitted, it was part of the reason they left! We hired them and I enjoyed working with him.

exactly this... I think there are more factors at play than “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” such as, maybe they have a family they have to provide for and they actually like the people they work with and what they do it’s just Jim from sales all of the sudden suggests a feature that’s unethical but the company believes it’s the thing to build... at some point, leadership should be blamed, not the engineer who just implemented it so they can go home to their spouse.

In software, there is incredible demand and engineers have a lot of negotiating power. So, we have the power to actually get new jobs easily!

And fine, but then when that horrible thing makes the news and their answer is "i don't care, i was just building the feature", I take that to be an extremely unsatisfactory answer.

And if they work at Facebook with those kind of unsatisfactory answers, they are probably very qualified for a lot of positions, and I don't think they'll be hurting for job offers elsewhere.

After all, they were just following orders.

How would it be illegal?

Doctors are often required to attest their ethics before doing a job.

But engineers are not. There are jurisdictions that this could be framed as discriminatory. Not in the US, but other markets.

I'm not sure why this would be discriminatory (in law or otherwise) for engineers and not for doctors.

Maybe the difference is that (computer-based) engineers are expected to do unethical work in some situations and for some employers, and there is an unwritten code that they can pass the buck and won't be penalised just for "doing their jobs".

What if the job they were "just" doing exists in a legal grey area? Or, more realistically, is flatout illegal?

You wouldn't hire a former prostitute who put themselves through education to better themselves and get a mainstream job?

Is the prostitution on their resume?

Whether what they were doing was "legal grey area" or "flatout illegal" is for the courts to decide, not for a random hiring manager/engineer interviewing that person. If you have a feeling that something could've been "flatout illegal", consider reporting them to the appropriate legal channels.

I, personally, would have done the latter in that scenario, but only if that entry was on their resume and they were proud of it. So no, I wouldn't report someone who personally confessed that many years ago they were dealing or doing sex work of the illegal kind. Though I heavily doubt that someone would be dumb enough to put it on their resume and advertise.

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