In a leaked internal post that could have a profound impact on how people view Facebook's role in the 2020 Presidential election, a top company executive says the social network has "tools" to stop a 2020 Donald Trump presidential victory, but shouldn't use them.
"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," Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth wrote in a private post last month that was subsequently obtained and published on Tuesday by The New York Times.
In the post, which was debated by Facebook employees, Bosworth said that he's been "desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid" Trump winning the 2020 Presidential election. But he believes a scene from Lord of the Rings is enough reason not to do it.
"Specifically when Frodo offers the ring to Galadrial [sic.] and she imagines using the power righteously, at first, but knows it will eventually corrupt her," Bosworth wrote.
According to the Times, Bosworth called himself a "liberal" in the post, and debated other employees who took issue with his argument (and Facebook policy) that the company shouldn't remove politicians' content, even if they contain misinformation. Some employees suggested Facebook should remove political posts containing misinformation, including those from the President.
It was nothing, if not a badly timed leak for Facebook. The company, along with its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, has faced widespread criticism for its role in providing a platform for the spread of misinformation during the 2016 election. Some blame Facebook for playing a role in getting Trump elected in the first place.
Bosworth is one of the top executives at Facebook and widely believed to be a close ally to Zuckerberg. His seeming acknowledgement in the post that Facebook has the ability to adjust the flow of information and in some way impact the 2020 election could raise eyebrows on both sides of the aisle. It could also prove to be a major misstep as Facebook tries to maintain independence in the eyes of conservatives and liberals who fear how its impact might influence the election.
For its part, Facebook told the Times that the Bosworth post was indeed real, but not meant for "public consumption." The social network also included a comment from Bosworth, who called on Facebook employees to "continue to accept criticism with grace as we accept the responsibility we have overseeing our platform."
So far, neither Trump nor his opponents on the Democratic side have commented on the Bosworth post or what the implications of his comments might mean for the 2020 election.
But if nothing else, it serves to highlight Facebook's central place in the political conversation as well as the impact it may have as we inch closer to November.