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Three takeaways from Facebook at Code

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On Monday afternoon, shortly after the 2019 Code Conference kicked off with a fraught interview with
 
June 11 · Issue #340 · View online
The Interface
On Monday afternoon, shortly after the 2019 Code Conference kicked off with a fraught interview with Susan Wojcicki, I took my first-ever steps onto the Code stage. The occasion was an interview with Adam Mosseri, who runs Instagram, and Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who has worked at the company since 2006 and currently oversees its efforts in making hardware.
Live on-stage interviews pose a unique set of challenges to the interviewer. Often, speakers are incentivized to make as little news as possible. And if the speaker is not the CEO of a company, they often feel constrained in what they can say. The result can be a muffled exchange between a journalist hoping to break new ground and a subject resisting at every turn.
That’s why I appreciated the fact that Mosseri and Boz were game to talk about some of the most pressing issues facing Facebook, including antitrust pressures, the risks that come with building encrypted messaging, and the plight of the company’s content moderators. (Here’s a recap from Vox’s Teddy Schleifer.) Rather than offer an extended take on my interview, I’d rather ask you to watch it and let me know what you think — you can find a YouTube embed below.
And while I wait for your thoughts, here are a few of my own takeaways from the talk.
Facebook is increasingly presenting antitrust efforts as a safety issue. Break up the company into many divisions and they will be less able to fight the bad guys, Mosseri said. “Personally, if we split it off, it might make a lot of my life easier, and it would probably be beneficial for me as an individual. But I just think it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “If you’re trying to solve election integrity, if you’re trying to approach content issues like hate speech, and you split us off, it would just make it exponentially more difficult — particularly for us at Instagram — to keep us safe.”
Facebook’s hardware ambitions are growing in a hurry. Boz contributed two pieces of hardware news to the discussion. The first is that people have already spent $5 million buying software for the Oculus Quest VR headset, which arrived just over a month ago. The second is that the company plans new form factors for its smart speaker, Portal, which was released to much derision last fall. It’s not shocking that Facebook is investing more heavily here — it desperately wants to own a hardware platform of its own, and it has the money to spend. But the pace of hardware releases is picking up, and may suggest that the company sees its product lineup as at least moderately successful.
Facebook is not worried about Sign in with Apple. Apple’s new login tool is a clear shot at Facebook’s own login button, which enables easy signups for developers that can also share more information than users sometimes realize. But Facebook doesn’t think Sign in with Apple will appeal much to developers — Boz said that when Facebook built a similar anonymous login tool, no one wanted to use it.
Of course, I wish the interview had gone on for another couple hours, so that I could have gotten to the many fine questions suggested to me on Twitter. I’ve already been in touch with Facebook to see if we might be able to bring one or both executives onto The Vergecast later this summer for an extended discussion, and the person I spoke with seemed receptive. So here’s hoping.
In the meantime, the full interview is below.

Facebook executives Adam Mosseri and Andrew Bosworth | Full interview | Code 2019
Democracy
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Facebook Removes Conspiracy Site Natural News
Donald Trump on tech antitrust: “There’s something going on”
Don’t smile for surveillance: Why airport face scans are a privacy trap
Anger at Big Tech Unites Noodle Pullers and Code Writers. Washington Is All Ears.
To detect fake news, this AI first learned to write it
Elsewhere
As CBD booms, Facebook is quietly cracking down on ads
Snapchat’s Gender-Swap and Baby Filters Doubled Downloads of the App
Snapchat’s gender swap filter used to take down police officer looking for underage hookup
PewDiePie, Nimses, and YouTube’s questionable sponsorship controversies
The Queen of Eating Shellfish Online
Launches
Listen to this AI voice clone of Bill Gates created by Facebook’s engineers
Facebook’s new Study app pays adults for data after teen scandal
Takes
The One Rule of Content Moderation That Every Platform Follows
And finally ...
The restaurant owner who asked for 1-star Yelp reviews
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and suggestions for beating the heat in Phoenix: casey@theverge.com.
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