The Facebook Whistle Blower - PM related thoughts

Scandal Plagued Facebook makes the Dude wonder if there are any product managers there with a conscience. Apparently there is/was only one.

Over the last decade, the Dude has watched with horror at the abuses, and piss-poor practices that drove Facebook, even whilst he was in thrall to their ego boosting algorithms.

Throughout this time, he pondered over and over if there were any ethical product managers there? The first straw that broke the camel's back was the Cambridge Analytica scandal that came to light. Apparently Facebook had so little control of what they exposed in their open graph API, that it allowed Cambridge Analytica scrape and build detailed profiles of 87 million users, and then leverage that data to target advertising and other vehicles at specific targeted groups to influence elections and other behaviors.

That is but one of many scandals (the one that finally drove the Dude to "delete" his Facebook profile came a few months later when it was exposed that Facebook gave handset makers unprecedented access to member data to drive more engagement via Mobile, a key priority for Facebook) exposed over the past decade or so.

Each scandal was shrugged off by a heartfelt apology by Zuckerberg or some other senior executive. A "We're Sorry" tour, akin to BP after the deepwater spill in the gulf.

Brilliant overlay!

As a long time product manager, the Dude had to wonder if to become a product manager at Facebook required one to have an ethics-ectomy surgery.

Sure, we all know that they are maniacally driven by growth, and focus their efforts on how to best increase engagement, even if that means causing a genocide in Myanmar, or feed anti Muslim hatred in India, or anyone of a dozen other really bad results of their products ability to rile up marginal groups, grow hatred, and foment violence.

Then came Frances Haugen, who worked in the Civic Integrity team that monitored the influence of Facebook on the 2020 US Presidential election, and the dissolution of that team after the election that led to the return of the behaviors that led to the January 6th insurrection at the capital.

Horrified, she took a mighty risk, and began documenting the mal-behavior of the organization, before leaving in May 2021 and blowing the whistle.

While the aftermath has been messy, one thing puzzles the Dude.

Are there no other product managers there with enough intestinal fortitude to do the right thing? Or is a big paycheck, and unlimited analytical knobs to turn to juice the system too tempting? The Dude knows that he would have left long before. There is much more to life than dollars, and being able to sleep on a pile of money doesn't make for a restful slumber.

No, the Dude is horrified at this glimpse from the outside, confirming the rot in the Facebook world, and while he doesn't hire product managers, Facebook on the resume is a definite black blotch that is irredeemable.

Like what you are reading? Subscribe now to get notified via email for new posts. Always free. Click to Subscribe

Loading comments...
You've successfully subscribed to The PM Dude
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.