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A Facebook VP stands by Kavanaugh, and employees revolt

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On September 27th, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh appeared before Congress to answer allegatio
 
October 4 · Issue #220 · View online
The Interface
On September 27th, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh appeared before Congress to answer allegations that he had committed sexual assault. There to support him was one of his best friends, Joel Kaplan, who also happens to be Facebook’s global head of policy.
I made passing note of Kaplan’s attendance here when it happened, and asked readers — particularly those in Facebook’s orbit — what they made of it. Well, now we know. Here’s Mike Isaac in the New York Times:
Mr. Kaplan’s surprise appearance prompted anger and shock among many Facebook employees, some of whom said they took his action as a tacit show of support for Judge Kavanaugh — as if it were an endorsement from Facebook itself.
The unrest quickly spilled over onto Facebook’s internal message boards, where hundreds of workers have since posted about their concerns, according to current and former employees. To quell the hubbub, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, last Friday explained in a widely attended staff meeting that Mr. Kaplan was a close friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s and had broken no company rules, these people said.
A similar set of documents appears to have been leaked to the Wall Street Journal’s Deepa Seetharaman, who reaches similar conclusions in her own story.
For Facebook, the controversy over Kaplan represents a new point of division at a company that is still grappling with the Instagram founders’ unexpected departure and the largest data breach in its history. Only when it comes to the Kaplan controversy, it’s not clear to me what the company’s next move should be.
The C suite seems to have been annoyed by Kaplan’s attendance, but was initially dismissive of employees’ concerns. (How concerned are employees? My favorite detail in Isaac’s story is that they went into Kaplan’s calendar and learned that he had not in fact taken the 27th as a personal day, as Kaplan initially stated. The calendar was later updated to reflect that it was, indeed, a personal day.)
In ordinary times, it would not even seem worthy of commentary that a Facebook employee would take time off to go support a good friend’s nomination for a government role. But these are no ordinary times, and this was no ordinary hearing. And among some Facebook employees, who have rallied around Kavanaugh’s proliferating number of accusers, Kaplan’s endorsement of his friend became a workplace issue.
As Isaac notes, Kaplan was hired precisely because of his deep ties to the conservative world. Facebook faces a variety of federal investigations and regulatory threats, and it needs allies in both parties to navigate those waters — particularly these days. Until now, Kaplan’s conservatism has been seen an asset to the company.
It still is — somewhere on Facebook’s communications team right now, I imagine there’s some mild excitement about a news cycle centered on its executives standing up to their more liberal employees in the defense of a conservative colleague. But it can be a liability, too, particularly if a lot of those employees take this opportunity to leave the company to work at an organization that doesn’t have a strategic imperative to make nice with the Trump Administration.
Andrew Bosworth, a 13-year Facebook veteran and Zuckerberg confidante, initially appeared to encourage employees to follow their principles out the door. Here’s Isaac again:
“If you need to change teams, companies or careers to make sure your day-to-day life matches your passions, we will be sad to see you go, but we will understand,” Mr. Bosworth wrote. “We will support you with any path you choose. But it is your responsibility to choose a path, not that of the company you work for.”
But after an employee backlash, Boz walked back his remarks. “I spoke at a time when I should be listening and that was a big mistake,“ he reportedly wrote in an internal post. Another meeting is scheduled for Friday for top executives to listen to employees’ concerns. The trouble for Facebook is that it’s not clear, beyond listening, what Facebook can really do.

Democracy
The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies
Pence Calls on Google to Drop Mobile Search Project in China
Most Twitter Accounts Linked To 2016 Disinformation Are Still Active, Report Find
Senators Call for Federal Investigation of Children’s Apps
How China's biggest social network fights fake news
Europe is drawing fresh battle lines around the ethics of big data
Elsewhere
Snap CEO Sets Goal of Profitability in 2019, Outlines New Strategic Goals for Employees
Social media analytics platform Hootsuite explores sale: sources
Unilad: Facebook viral publisher goes into administration
Instagram COO Marne Levine: App Is Safe After Founders' Facebook Exit
When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself
The Teens Who Post the Same Thing Every Day on Instagram
Launches
Instagram’s Nametag make it easier to follow people you meet IRL
Instagram is also adding location history, in what seems part of an eventual effort to build a Snap Map-style feature into Instagram. (Josh Constine speculates that it’s’ about serving local ads.)
Jane Manchun Wong
Instagram, as a "Facebook Product", is testing Facebook Location History in their app. It allows tracking the history of precise locations from your device, now through instagram app too previously: https://t.co/JCQGnawJbV https://t.co/S02lyIfTlu
11:36 AM - 4 Oct 2018
Yahoo returns to messaging with IRC-inspired Yahoo Together
Takes
Finance, the media and a catastrophic breakdown in trust ($)
And finally ...
New FiDi Pasta Shop Literally Names Itself After Instagram
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and those internal Facebook posts you’re sharing with Mike and Deepa: casey@theverge.com.
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