An executive at Facebook, which is still facing scrutiny over its significant role in the 2016 presidential election, said he believed the social media giant was responsible for President Donald Trump’s victory but only as a result of clever advertising, not outside influence.
The remarks by Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth came from a lengthy Dec. 30 post that was first obtained by The New York Times. Bosworth later shared the post, in which he added that the comments were “not meant for public consumption.”
“So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks,” wrote Bosworth, who’s in charge of Facebook’s virtual reality and augmented reality operations. “He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period.
Facebook came under intense scrutiny for its influence on the 2016 election after reports revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm eventually hired by the Trump campaign, gained unauthorized access to the data of more than 50 million Facebook users. The scandal led to government investigations in the United States and abroad, but Bosworth said in his post that it was “a total non-event.”
“That brings me to the present moment, where we have maintained the same ad policies. It occurs to me that it very well may lead to the same result,” he said of this fall’s election. “As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”
The executive then said that, although he identifies as liberal and financially supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, he has resisted the urge to “pull any lever” for the November election to lean Democratic ― comparing any company policy changes as the same tempting desire found in the Lord of the Rings series or in John Rawls’ political philosophy.
The comments by Bosworth, one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s right-hand executives at Facebook, are not the first time he’s faced backlash for saying something controversial. In 2018, BuzzFeed obtained a post Bosworth made in 2016 in which he said that Facebook’s aim was to connect the world regardless of the consequences.
“We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified,” Bosworth wrote in June 2016. “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. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”
Bosworth later alleged he didn’t agree with what he wrote and only posted it to spark debate among Facebook employees, according to BuzzFeed.
Bosworth’s December remarks surfaced in reports Tuesday, a day after Trump claimed that Zuckerberg told the president during their dinner in October that he was “number 1” on the social media platform. What the president would be “number 1” in was unclear, and Facebook had previously declined to comment to HuffPost on the remark.