The Facebook engineer who sparked an internal firestorm at Facebook with his criticism of what he called a “political monoculture” that is “intolerant” of conservatism, is leaving the company.
In a recent internal memo to fellow employees obtained by Business Insider, Brian Amerige, an engineering manager of product usability, 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.”
Silicon Valley, the heart of the American tech industry, is largely liberal, and has been fraught with allegations of bias in Trump’s America. In July 2017, Google found itself at the center of a political firestorm after engineer James Damore wrote an internal post decrying what he characterised as “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” in which he attacked the company’s diversity efforts. (Some conservatives also allege that social media firms are deliberately silencing and censoring nonliberal voices on their platforms, which the companies deny.)
Amerige penned his own critical memo of Facebook earlier this year, attacking what he called its “political monoculture,” leading him to be described as “Facebook’s aspiring James Damore.”
In an email, Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thomson confirmed Amerige’s departure: “We wish Brian all the best.”
Amerige wrote in his leaving memo that he is now starting a company with his friend “at the intersection of applied philosophy epistemology, specifically) and technology.”
‘A political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views’
Amerige sprung to prominence in August 2018, when he wrote an internal memo decrying what he described as the Silicon Valley’s company’s “intolerant” culture.
“We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views … we claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology,” Amerige, who politically identifies as objectivist, wrote.
The writing proved controversial, and subsequently sparked the creation of an internal group, on Facebook’s Workplace messageboard, “FB’ers for Political Diversity,” where hundreds of conservative employees protested the company’s practices. Posters promoting the group and attacking the “outrage mob” appeared around campus, and debates among employees have broken out across Facebook Workplace over the company’s approach to politics.
There have also previously been some incidents in which Facebook employees have refused to work with or talk to certain colleagues because of their political beliefs, an employee previously told Business Insider.
Meanwhile, liberals have stridently challenged allegations of anti-conservative bias at tech firms. Bernie Sanders recently pointed to top Facebook lobbyist Joel Kaplan’s hosting of a party to celebrating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court as evidence against conservative critics’ claims, as well as Google’s donations to conservative group the Federalist Society.
Amerige’s last day is on Friday, he wrote in his message. “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,” he wrote. “I’m not leaving because ‘it’s time for something new.'”
‘Our PR strategy is appeasement — not morally earned pride and self-defense’
Amerige wrote: “I’m leaving because I’m burnt out on Facebook, our strategy, our culture, and our product.
“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.”
He added: “While I remain as in love as ever with our mission and my colleague’s nearly-always good intentions, I disagree too strongly with where 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.”
While the memo 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.”
Do you work at Facebook? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Y ou can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.