Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's new chief technology officer

Credit: AFP

A Facebook executive who once claimed that it did not not matter if terror attacks were planned on the website has been appointed as its head of technology.

Andrew Bosworth argued in a 2016 memo that using Facebook to connect more people was the right thing to do even if “someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools”.

His appointment as chief technology officer comes as Facebook battles regulators across the world. It is facing strict new rules in the UK in the form of the Online Safety Bill, which is designed to protect users from extreme material.

Mr Bosworth, a member of Mark Zuckerberg’s inner circle who has has known the Facebook founder since they were both at Harvard, made the inflammatory remarks were made in an internal memo. 

He suggested that Facebook’s value to society was so important that even negative consequences should be overlooked. 

Mr Bosworth said connecting people “can be bad if they make it negative" and added: "Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people.

“The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good.”

Mr Bosworth, known internally as Boz, previously ran Facebook’s virtual reality division. He distanced himself when the memo was first revealed by BuzzFeed in 2018, saying: “I didn’t even agree with it when I wrote it.”

Mr Zuckerberg said at the time he “disagreed strongly” with the comments.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg

Mr Bosworth has been at Facebook since 2006, where he was responsible for building early versions of its News Feed and Messenger services. 

Facebook has been forced to grapple with the use of its services to celebrate and promote terror attacks. In 2019, the shooter who attacked mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people, broadcast his actions as a Facebook Live for 17 minutes.

The technology company has relied on tens of thousands of moderators to weed out harmful or illegal posts. 

It has also increasingly relied on artificial intelligence tools to capture and delete terror-related posts, which will fall under Mr Bosworth’s new remit.

According to its latest transparency report, Facebook took down 7.1m terrorism posts in the three months to June, and 6.2m posts related to other hate groups. Facebook said it found 99.7pc of this content automatically before it was reported by users.

Mr Bosworth will also have oversight of Facebook’s efforts on encryption, which includes adding tools to make the monitoring of its Messenger app almost impossible. The plans have been criticised by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

Jason Kint, chief executive of media trade body Digital Content Next and a critic of Facebook, said: “You don’t place your loyal lieutenant Andrew Bosworth in charge of all tech unless you’re preparing for war.”

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.