Facebook’s “Ugly Memo” Is Completely Ethical.

Facebook employees were horrified last week by over a leaked 2016 memo from  Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth defending the social network’s aggressive expansion plans. Naturally, since the news media is in a Hate Facebook mode, ever since it was discovered that the social networking giants didn’t just let Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton acquire personal, data from its users: Republicans got some of the “big data” too, the Bosworth memo, nicknamed “The Ugly,” was more fodder to declare Mark Zuckerberg’s baby evil.

It may be evil, but not on the basis of the memo. Here’s what Bosworth wrote:

The Ugly

We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly.

We connect people.

That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.

So we connect more people

That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned. That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.

That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.

The natural state of the world is not connected. It is not unified. It is fragmented by borders, languages, and increasingly by different products. The best products don’t win. The ones everyone use win.

I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here. If you joined the company because it is doing great work, that’s why we get to do that great work. We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth. Nothing makes Facebook as valuable as having your friends on it, and no product decisions have gotten as many friends on as the ones made in growth. Not photo tagging. Not news feed. Not messenger. Nothing.

In almost all of our work, we have to answer hard questions about what we believe. We have to justify the metrics and make sure they aren’t losing out on a bigger picture. But connecting people. That’s our imperative. Because that’s what we do. We connect people.

Anyone who thinks this is a horrible or unethical sentiment doesn’t understand the fallacy of consequentialism, doesn’t comprehend moral luck, and doesn’t understand ethics or the concept of liberty. The section in the memo that has the Left’s new moralists suffering from the vapours is this one:

“So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

That’s not “ugly.” That is a statement of reality, though admittedly one that certain political groups can’t understand, or choose not to accept. The value of tools that expand human power and experience is not diminished because they can be, and predictably will be, misused by some people, sometimes tragically. The nation was built on a basic understanding and embrace of that concept. Recently, a powerful movement has arisen challenging the assertion that personal; liberty is a universal good, on the grounds that liberty can be abused..  Here are some of the parallel and equivalent statements that this group currently challenges, often in  angry and demonizing terms: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Trump-Deranged Prof’s 2016 Post-Election Freak-Out

Bridgewater State University professor Garrett Avila-Nichols wrote the Facebook screed above shortly after the November 8 defeat of Hillary Clinton by President Anti-Christ. Somehow the post didn’t become known to students—at least the ones he hate—and apparently even the university’s administration until this week.

Observations:

1 We are seeing one example after another of college professors making tweets and other social media posts denigrating conservatives, Republicans, whites, men and Trump voters in emotional, vicious and frequently obscene rhetoric. Can anyone recall any similar conduct from professors directed against liberals, conservatives, minorities, women, or Obama, Clinton or Carter voters? I know that there was no social media to abuse for much of those periods, but still: when did professors get the idea that attacking large segments of the population and the student body was tolerable? Why do they think it is acceptable conduct now?

2. Is it because they see, hear and read so much similar hate and fury in the mainstream media, social media, and mouth-foaming  anti-Trump fanatics like Maxine Waters, Keith Olberman, and Stephen Colbert, and see them get away with it relatively unscathed?

3. Professor Turley is almost an absolutist on the matter of professors being able to exercise their First Amendment rights on social media. Would he defend this? Really? How can someone teach students when he has declared in print and online that some of them aren’t welcome? How could such students trust such a professor to grade them objectively and fairly? Teachers are supposed to be mentors and allies: how can someone who hates you perform those roles? How can a school trust a professor who writes something like that?

4.  Does it matter that this is an old post? I don’t think so. Emotions that intense and judgement that terrible are signature significance. Rational, reasonable, trustworthy professionals don’t make public outbursts like that. Ever. Continue reading

Professor Volokh’s Ethics Dissent On The Vicious, Pazuzu-Blaming Professor’s Firing

‘Yes, I know he’s an idiot, but we should support idiots as highly paid teachers of our children, for the protection of the non-idiots…

Eugene Volokh is one of the best and most objective legal minds in the country. If he finds himself on the Supreme Court when Kennedy retires or Ginsberg shuffles off this mortal coil, we will not have suffered through the ugliness of the Trump years in vain. When he opines, I listen, as we all should, and he has now opined regarding the now fired idiot that I wrote about this morning, ex-University of Tampa visiting sociology professor Ken Storey.

Storey used Twitter, in the middle of the still-unfolding human disaster in Houston and soon New Orleans, to announce that flooding victims who were Trump supporters or Republicans deserved to die. He did this twice, so his later claim that his words did not intentionally convey what his words were obviously intended to convey was a desperate and obvious lie.

I wrote:

The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Today, in the Washington Post, Professor Volokh advocates a different position:

Storey’s comments were nasty and mean-spirited; and I should note that the University of Tampa is a private university, in a state that doesn’t limit private employers’ ability to fire employees for their speech. The university’s actions thus seem legal (assuming they didn’t breach any contract). And Storey’s comments also weren’t academic or likely to be part of a serious political debate.

But the university’s action strikes me as further undermining the freedom of expression and debate at American universities, including the freedom to say things that are much more thoughtful. If you were an untenured faculty member at the University of Tampa, would you feel free to express your views on controversial subjects, when you saw how the university reacted to this tweet? Even if your views were very different politically, what do you think the University would do if people started pressuring for your dismissal, pointing to the Storey incident as precedent?

I’ve talked before about “censorship envy,” one mechanism through which these sorts of speech restrictions can grow: “If my neighbor — and especially my political adversary — gets to ban speech he reviles,” the thinking goes, “why shouldn’t I get to do the same?”

If a university has a strong policy of protecting speech, including offensive speech, administrators can point to that policy as a means of resisting calls for firing a controversial faculty member, and they can appeal to people’s desire to see speakers on their own side protected, and use that desire to help protect speakers on all sides. But once the university starts firing some people for speech “that do[es] not reflect [the university’s] community views or values,” that makes it much harder to resist calls for more suppression. Indeed, at that point tolerating speech starts implicitly conveying the message that the speech does reflect the university’s community views or values — and to avoid that implication, the university would have to fire any speaker who offended some sufficiently influential constituency.

I am very confident that in this rare case, Prof. Volokh is dead wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/17: A Vicious Professor, Pazuzu, And Kathy Griffin Revokes Her Apology

[ Just to remind you how good Debbie, Gene and Donald were. Note that these dancers skipped the staircase..]

GOOD Morning…

I’m changing the Warm-Up headlines to reflect the topics covered. I may even go back and revise the old headlines. It took a while, but I realized that having dozens of essentially identical post titles with only a date as the distinction made archive research harder than it had to be.

1.I would have headlined the story of now fired visiting University of Tampa professor Ken Storey “Vicious, bigoted and possessed by the Demon Pazuzu is no way to go through academia, son,” but so many professors have used social media to make outrageous and offensive statements that the ethics issue is getting repetitious. (I think Jonathan Turley has done a post on each one of them, and will continue to on his blog.)

The question is whether a college or university is breaching its commitment to free expression and academic freedom when it fires a professor who says that all men are rapists, or that whites should be exterminated, or, in Storey’s case,

When asked later if this theory also applied to Florida,  and Trump supporters there deserved a similar fate.the Florida college professor replied,

“Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”

The answer is no. The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Ken compounded his ethical offense by the standards of Ethics Alarms by issuing a terrible apology that evoked the Pazuzu excuse. Realizing that he had gone too far, he tweeted,

“I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”

Translation: “Oops. My hateful expression of glee over the tragedy afflicting Texans seems to have put my job in jeopardy. I regret that, so I have pulled down my tweet and am pretending to be sorry. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group, even though somehow my tweet wished ill on a group in the clearest terms, and I doubled down on it. Someone or something else must have been responsible. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly. (Saying that will let me keep my job, right?)”

This is a #10 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the worst there is:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

Storey was fired.

Good.

2. Speaking of phony apologies, Kathy Griffin, she of the Bloody Head, went all the way to Australia to reveal that she really isn’t sorry about representing that the beheading of a U.S. President is hilarious: Continue reading

From “The Pazuzu Excuse” Files: The Justly-Fired TV Reporter’s Lament

Colleen Campbell, a local  Philadelphia television reporter, got herself fired for an obscenity-packed rant berating a cop  outside a Philadelphia comedy club. What she didn’t know was that the whole, ugly thing was filmed. You know that rule that says “ethics is what you do when nobody’s looking except your embarrassed companion and a policeman who you have no respect for anyway because he’s just a cop? That’s the one Colleen whiffed on.

Campbell ae was kicked out of the club for “loud whispering” throughout the show. Once outside, she denied being disruptive to an officer who removed her. The officer replied that Campbell and her male friend needed to just leave the scene. The reporter replied, charmingly,

Or what? Or what, motherfucker? Lick my asshole. How about that? Fucking piece of shit. That’s why nobody likes fucking police … idiots in this fucking town.”

Campbell, 28, didn’t know her act was caught on camera and posted to Facebook until after she received word from the station that she had been fired. Now she says…

“That’s not me or how I talk or act or anything at all…I don’t know what to do. I feel ruined and embarrassed for me and my family….I feel awful…That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised. I had to delete all my social media, because I’m getting threats….I wanna apologize to the officer. I don’t remember the whole altercation at all. I remember feeling attacked. I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”

The Kathy Griffin episode sparked several of those currently popular blog posts and web essays about how social media destroys people who make “one mistake” and if it could happen to them, it can happen to you. Ethics Alarms has had several of these posts in the past, always about regular citizens who had an ugly e-mail distributed to the universe by an angry girl friend, or a tasteless or misunderstood tweet to a friend gone viral. No question: these web lynchings are out of proportion to the offense. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Yale’s Bigoted Dean And Pazuzu”

I admire this perceptive comment about cyber-rudeness posted  by crella  in respense to the recent article on the Yale dean who was addicted to posting Yelp reviews that mocked and showed her contempt for various classes of citizens, like “white trash.” I’m also pleased to recognize her long-time contributions to the discussions here. They are consistently articulate, thoughtful, and civil. Her post makes the important point that people show their true character in their online discourse, and crella’s online discourse here shows intelligence and sensitivity.

Here is crella’s Comment of the Day on the post, Yale’s Bigoted Dean and Pazuzu:

Social media has dumbed-down society far faster than I ever thought possible, through fostering the need for outside validation (likes, views, numbers of ‘friends’) and the brevity forced on the user on some platforms (Twitter’s 140 character limit). In combination, these two conditions have almost wiped out in-depth discussion; you can try, but you’ll likely get a ‘tldr’ for your efforts (‘too long, didn’t read’ but then they’ll post their opinion anyway)…and, instead of reasoned arguments, snark level has become the new indicator of intelligence.

All these factors are evident in Chu’s actions. I was puzzled as to why anyone would send out a blanket email to let everyone know she was a Yelp Elite. Being bumped up a category for most restaurant reviews is a strange thing to want attention for, but perhaps any internet ‘fame’ is good? The snark as intelligence factor is prominent in most of her reviews, she’s too good for many of the places she’s been, better than the people serving her. It really went so far to her head she couldn’t see how nasty she had become, it was normal amongst Yelp followers, but not outside of it. Continue reading

Yale’s Bigoted Dean And Pazuzu

I’m generally a Jonathan Turley fan—for one thing, he makes almost as many typos on his blog as I do— but the George Washington Law School constitutional law professor is the master of equivocation, and this often obscures important facts. Writing about Yale’s  Dean June Chu, recently put on leave by the school  for  online posts showing her to be a racist, a bigot and a hypocrite, he writes that she

“has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University.  However, that stellar record came to a halt — and Chu was put on leave — after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive.” 

“Deemed offensive” is classic Turley mild-speak, and it misleadingly suggests that the Yale dean has been another victim of campus political correctness because someone “deemed” her words “offensive.” Here is a sample of what she wrote on Yelp in various consumer reviews:

  • In a review of a Japanese steakhouse, Chu wrote, “I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you . . . if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!”
  • She  described a theater as having “sketchy crowds (despite it being in new haven)”
  • She said a movie theater  had “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7.”
  • Chu said of a fitness employee that “seriously I don’t care if you would ‘lose your job’ (I am sure McDonalds would hire you).”
  • She called another  gym class instructor ” frail and totally out of shape.”

Interestingly and tellingly, these and other nasty posts by Chu were discovered by students after she sent a campus-wide email  in which she proudly announced that she had become “Yelp Elite,” meaning that she had been recognized by Yelp for “well-written reviews, high quality tips, a detailed personal profile, an active voting and complimenting record, and a history of playing well with others.” Some students decided to see what she had written.  That wasn’t an unpredictable response, so Chu obviously didn’t see anything wrong with the attitudes she had projected. Stunned and disillusioned by what they found, the students  circulated some of the most remarkable of her comments. These  sparked anger from Yale students and alumni, who deemed the posts offensive because, Prof Turley, they were offensive. They were arrogant, elitist, classist and racist, reflected poorly on the institution, and  were not the kinds of expression that supported Yale’s trust in her. Continue reading