Brian Amerige, the Facebook engineer who sparked a firestorm at Facebook with his criticism of what he called a “political monoculture” that is “intolerant” of conservatism, is leaving the company.
In a lengthy, 1,026-word internal memo to fellow Facebook employees, Amerige, the engineering manager of product accessibility, explained his decision to leave, decrying the company’s political “monoculture” and PR strategy of “appeasement,” while professing his love for Facebook’s “mission.”
In a year during which the internet industry has been rocked by problems ranging from privacy scandals to the spread of misinformation, and as the politically fractured state of society has spread into even the most profitable tech companies, Amerige’s farewell letter encapsulates the frustrations and challenges that Facebook is contending with.
While it criticises Facebook’s “culture” and leadership, it also discusses less politicised issues Facebook is facing, from the decline in sharing in Facebook’s main app to team structure.
“My departure isn’t because I think these issues are intractable. These problems can be solved — just not by me, nor anymore, at least,” Amerige wrote. “I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that’s how I know it’s time to go.”
I’m sad to say that Friday, October 12th will be my last day at Facebook.
This was a difficult decision to make because I love so much about this company, our mission, and our leaders. But I’ve been thinking about this for almost a year and though a certain leak delayed me a bit, I know it’s time for me to move on.
There’s a lot to say about why, and this post certainly won’t cover it all. Unlike many others who’ve been here for a while, I”m not leaving because “it’s time for something new.” I believe that it takes a long time to o good work, and novelty isn’t my kind of thing: change is good when it’s change for the better. I’ve changed teams once in my 6.5 years at Facebook.
I’m leaving because I’m burnt out on Facebook, our strategy and our culture.
Strategically, we’ve taken a stance on how to balance offensive and hateful speech with free expression. We’ve accepted the inevitability of government regulation. And we’ve refused to defend ourselves in the press. Our policy strategy is pragmatism — not clear, implementable long-term principles — and our PR strategy is appeasement — not morally earned pride and self defense.
Culturally, it’s difficult to have meaningful conversations about any of this because we’re a political monoculture, and these are political issues. And while we’ve made some progress in FB’ers for Political Diversity (which is approaching 750 members now), and while I’m pleased to say that senior company leadership does take this seriously (as you will hopefully soon see), we have a very long way to go.
To that end, while I remain as in love as ever with our mission and my colleague’s nearly-always good intentions, I disagree too strongly with we’re we’re heading on these issues to watch what happens next. These issues hang over my head each morning, and I don’t want to spend all of my time fighting about them.
Our product is also at a crossroads (and has been for years) as sharing in the Facebook app continues to dwindle. The pivot to Stories will hopefully help, but I’m disappointed by how reactive our future appears to be. Ultimately, I’ve spent the bulk of my time at Facebook trying to build a stronger product culture. From tech leading Paper, to starting and leading the team that built our UI foundation (FIG, now FDS), I wanted Facebook to be a place where people with great product sense, focus, intuition and a little obsessiveness about quality were attracted, belonged, and were rewarded. I think we made progress, but the headwinds have been and continue to be strong, and it shows in our future-looking product strategy and the relative rarity of strong product thinkers at Facebook.
My departure isn’t because I think these issues are intractable. These problems can be solved — just not by me, nor anymore, at least. I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that’s how I know it’s time to go.
Still, this company gets so much right, and you all have a lot to be proud of. The density of talent at Facebook has always been one of my favorite parts of working here, and there are simply too many incredibly people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and building something with for me to list. My teams have always felt like family to me, and I”m going to miss them terribly.
Beyond the people, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize two aspects of our culture that are especially good: our scrappiness, and how we think about individual contributor roles.
Be Scrappy. I’ve always understood “move fast” to really mean “be scrappy,” and what a pleasure it’s been to watch how +28,000 employees haven’t substantially changed that. I don’t think “move fast” applies to product direction, design standards, or engineering quality. It’s about process. As the company continues to grow, you will increasingly find that most people in any given room are new and don’t necessarily know that it’s ok to say “sorry, I don’t understand any of what you just said” or that they’re supposed to ask “Do we really need to wait for the monthly review?” These kinds of questions are our secret weapon against becoming a bureaucracy where innovative people don’t want to work. So keep asking “why?” about everything related to how we work.
Roles and Responsibility. The way we think about team roles is better than anywhere else I’ve seen. We let ICs truly lead, we incentivize transitions to and from management for the right reasons, and we let teams figure out who does what with deference to strengths instead of functional titles. We could still do better (particularly around how senior ICs integrate with director+ level decisions), but this way of thinking is the industry leading and has made Facebook a very special place for me, as something of a hybrid between engineering, product and design.
My professional purpose has always been to “amplify human capability and raise standards,” and while I’m proud to say I’ve done a little of both at Facebook, I”m excited to focus more intensely on this going forward. I’m starting a company with a good friend of mine, Alex Epstein, at the intersection of applied philosophy (epistemology, specifically) and technology.
I don’t know if leaving Facebook affords me one parting word of advice, but I have one for you anyway: I want to encourage you all to believe in yourselves more. In the value your products create for the world. In your own product sense and instinct when they contradict the data (which we’re often too confident in). In your ability to create something people love. And in your perspective when no one else agrees…especially when you’re afraid to share it. The truth does not emerge from averages, but your ability to reason lets you glimpse it — stand by it, defend it, and be proud of it. Everything else will take care of itself.
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