I just sent an unintentionally blistering response to a Facebook recruiter. Having invested the time in writing it, I remembered that I have a very disused blog, and perhaps people reading here would find it useful, either as fodder for your own such messages, or as a snapshot of my concerns regarding Facebook and fascism in America in 2018. If either of these apply to you, enjoy.
Thanks so much for reaching out!
As you know, it is a very critical time in the life of our nation. The Trump administration is tearing children away from their parents at our borders, children and parents alike are being put in concentration camps, our nation’s highest court has abdicated its role as a check on the overt fascism of the Trump administration, and the Republican Congress has embraced fascism. All the while, the President remains under criminal investigation for colluding with a hostile foreign power to get elected, 4 members of his campaign have already been charged in association including his former campaign manager, and one person is already serving jail time in connection.
I have followed Russia professionally since 2014, when it invaded the Crimea region of eastern Ukraine, and since Roskomnadzor started restricting Internet data flows regarding Russian citizens. I was involved in critical policy decisions at my former employer about how we would respond to the invasion. Fascism had risen in Russia in 2014 just as surely as it is rising in America now. I followed the allegations about Russia’s conduct in the 2016 election from very early; the international cybersecurity community was aware and acknowledged well before it was widely reported in the popular press that Russia was actively attempting to elect Trump by a variety of methods, including manipulating social media.
I am increasingly afraid of the conduct of all of the major social media players, but Facebook in particular. I have read your reports on the Russian social media manipulation which occurred on your platforms, and I find the data they present incomplete and their conclusions flatly false. Put simply, from the outside it is obvious that Facebook has lost the war against malicious SEO, Russia and other malicious actors are using it to support fascism in the United States, Facebook refuses to acknowledge this or take steps to address it, and people are dying as a result.
I find the unwillingness of Facebook to answer to lawmakers and regulators in the UK, the EU, and the US, the unsatisfying answers Mark Zuckerberg provided when finally called to account here, and Facebook’s utter inability to take meaningful steps to prevent the ongoing violence it has enabled in places like Myanmar lead me inexorably to the conclusion that Facebook deserves neither the awesome power nor the awesome responsibility which it has arrogated to itself.
The forthcoming exit of Alex Stamos cements this conclusion for me. I know him by reputation through my boss at Stripe, Mudge, and through others in the cybersecurity community. I have followed the circumstances of his departure closely, and I am unwilling to work in an organization in which he has obviously lost the argument that the only right and moral course of action is to look squarely at what happened, to tell the truth to the world, and to take every effective action to ensure it never happens again.
This is not just a political matter or a professional matter but very personal to me as well. I used to have a Facebook account, which I have now deleted. I stopped using it ten years ago when my conservative grandmother nearly disowned me after I posted on Facebook that I had donated to the ACLU. Today I would not be so frightened by that, but when I was in college and poor, her support mattered a great deal to me.
Additionally I am a queer man who grew up in conservative rural Iowa, and I am not out to most of my high school classmates. Perhaps I might choose to be at some point, but Facebook’s “Real Names” policy takes that choice out of my hands. With all the search and tagging and facial recognition features Facebook provides (and more every day), it is very hard for me to have a Facebook account of any kind where I can control the sharing of my data in a way that I feel safe. Worse, despite that Facebook ostensibly provides privacy settings which purport to enable this, they are so ridiculously complicated and so frequently changed that even I, a professional in cybersecurity, can’t ever have confidence I’ve set them correctly. The safest course of action for me is not to have or use an account.
In the context of moves by Facebook to reach out to the party, at CPAC and in closed-door meetings as recently reported, which is currently enabling our President’s fascism and itself fascist, and following Stamos’s exit, I cannot trust that Facebook is not itself a tool of fascism. I cannot trust that Facebook won’t be used to hurt me, people like me, or marginalized people everywhere—and worst, I cannot trust that Facebook doesn’t *want* that. Until this changes, I cannot and will not seek employment at Facebook.
I’m sorry this message is so long. From outside the company there is very little I can do but vote with my feet, but I do want to explain why I choose to do so. I hope that Facebook’s policies will change, and that we will some day be able to have a happier conversation.
– Kevin Riggle