Morning Update: It's Friday So Let's All Eat Cereal Out Of Potholes

An explosive Facebook memo, new trial for Adnan Syed, Starbucks coffee warnings. Here's your BuzzFeed News newsletter, March 30.

A Facebook exec wrote a memo in favor of “growth at any cost.”

“Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.”

Here’s what happened: In June of 2016, Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth wrote those words in an internal memo we got a hold of. He’s one of Mark Zuckerberg’s top lieutenants at the company.

Here’s why it matters: The memo reveals the extent to which Facebook’s leadership understood the physical and social risks the platform’s products carried — even as the company downplayed those risks in public.

The memo is not ambiguous: “We connect people. Period,” it reads. “That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends.”

The explosive internal memo is titled “The Ugly.”

Here’s the context inside Facebook: One former senior employee told us, “The memo is classic Boz because it speaks to the majority of Facebook employee views but it's also polarizing. … This is clearly a post meant to rally the troops.”

Back to the memo: “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.”

Where is Zuckerberg on all of this? He says he strongly disagrees with the memo. He called Bosworth a “a talented leader who says many provocative things," but added the memo was something "that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly."

Trump’s pick to lead the CIA actively pushed to have “the torture tapes” destroyed

Gina Haspel, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, staunchly advocated for the destruction of videotapes showing detainees being tortured. She even obtained the legal opinions that were used to justify their destruction.

CIA officials have been pressing the narrative that Haspel was simply following orders when she helped engineer the tapes’ destruction. They say she has served the agency well for 33 years, almost entirely as a clandestine officer.

The records and public accounts we reviewed suggest that she was actively involved in pushing to have the tapes destroyed.


Reporter Remy Smidt spent weeks covering the Parkland shooting, interviewing both parents and students. She just shared her experiences with the Outside Your Bubble Facebook group, a place where we encourage people to talk about stories and experiences that shaped their perspectives. And we'd love for you to join us.

The government wants visa applicants to hand over their social media usernames

Do you remember anything you tweeted five years ago? The State Department wants people who are applying for a visa to enter the United States to hand over their social media usernames, as well as past phone numbers and email addresses.

The department says it would use the information “for identity resolution and vetting purposes.”

Under the proposal, visa applicants would be required to provide “identifiers” they've used on social media platforms in the previous five years.

The state department is seeking input from the public on the proposed new requirements over the next 60 days.


I highly, highly recommend today’s episode of our podcast See Something Say Something. Smart people discuss the way the word ‘terrorist’ has been used in conversations around the Austin bombings, the Parkland shootings, and the Salman Noor case. Yes, there is a double standard — the label “terrorism” being applied to Muslims and POC is certainly hypocritical — but expanding the government’s role in policing terrorism is a difficult proposition.

An appeals court has ruled Adnan Syed from Serial should get a new trial

You remember Serial’s first season. It was a phenomenon. It told the story of Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man who has spent the last 18 years in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

Syed had a significant court victory when an appeals court ruled he was deserving of a new trial.

One of the significant pivots of the story as told on the podcast was that a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, claimed to have seen Syed in their high school library during the time prosecutors said Lee was murdered.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals voted 2–1 to find that Syed's "Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated by trial counsel’s failure to investigate McClain as a potential alibi witness."

Quick catch-up

Banned from guns: Zachary Cruz, the younger brother of Nikolas Cruz, the accused Parkland, Florida, school shooter, has been barred from possessing guns. He also must undergo mental health counseling as part of his sentencing related to trespassing on the campus of the school where the shooting happened.

Voting illegally: A Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election while she was on supervised release from a fraud conviction. She said she voted at the urging of her mother and had never been told she was not allowed to vote.

New Starbucks warnings: Fun news, California. Every time you go to Starbucks or any other place that sells coffee, you will now be reminded that drinking this vital life elixir could kill you. A judge ruled the coffee giant, along with all other vendors and distributors, must include a cancer warning on their products. Here’s why.

MyFitnessPal data: About 150 million users of the MyFitnessPal food and nutrition app had their usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords stolen in a data security breach according to Under Armour, which owns the app. Under Armour said in a statement that it was notifying users of the application about the breach.

Malala broke down in tears during an emotional homecoming

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai returned to Pakistan this week for the first time since she was shot in 2012.

Yousafzai was attacked by Taliban militants trying to stop her from attending school. Her attempted murder propelled her to worldwide recognition.

Her visit to Pakistan was wrapped in secrecy over fears for her safety. Afterward, though, images and videos of her meeting the Pakistani prime minister and a speech she delivered circulated online.

“I’m still 20 years old, but I’ve seen so many things in life.”

Her speech is absolutely worth watching. You can find it here.

We talked to two guys who ate cereal out of potholes

In case you were not aware — I was certainly not aware — pouring cereal into potholes is kind of a thing.

When it's been done, it's usually been as a quirky, local protest against bad road conditions. Still, most people only pretend to eat the cereal out of the pothole. Only a few brave souls have gone so far as to actually do it.

We talked to two of them. “It was great. You wouldn’t know if it was a bowl or a pothole.”

The interview is quite something.

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