Less than six months after exclaiming his concerns about algorithmic censorship on social media, and fears about becoming a ‘ministry of truth’, Alex Stamos – Facebook’s chief information security officer – is leaving the tech giant following “internal disagreements” over how the company should handle disinformation spread over its platform, according to the New York Times.
His departure was reportedly planned long before the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted over the weekend.
Stamos famously unleashed a scathing tweet storm late last year warning the FBI and intrusive Democratic lawmakers (who are again banging the regulation drum) that “censorship is easy”, but separating Russian bots from legitimate posters would be much, much harder, and essentially would require Facebook or the government to become a “Ministry of Truth” – referring to a government ministry from George Orwell’s 1984 responsible for rewriting history.
“It’s very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using just computer programs,” Stamos said in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.
“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral,” Stamos wrote, adding that the media is simplifying the matter.
“Nobody is not aware of the risks.”
“So if you don’t worry about becoming the Ministry of Truth with ML systems trained on your personal biases, then it’s easy!“
Stamos, according to the NYT, had reportedly clashed with other senior executives over how the company should handle disclosures of “Russian interference” on its platform. Stamos called for more transparency and disclosure.
His repeated conflicts led to his day-to-day responsibilities being reassigned late last year in preparation for his departure – which wasn’t expected to happen until August.
After his day-to-day responsibilities were reassigned to others in December, Mr. Stamos said he would leave the company. He was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition of his duties because executives thought his departure would look bad, the current and former employees said. He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the current and former employees said.
Stamos is the first senior employee to leave the company since the controversy surrounding the purported $100,000 in fraudulent ad spending by a “Russian troll farm” was first publicly confirmed in September.
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