Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Facebook’s second chief executive, steps down

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sheryl Sandberg, the second executive of Facebook owner Meta, who helped turn her business from startup to digital advertising empire while taking the blame for some of his biggest misstepswithdraws.

Sandberg served as chief operating officer at the social media giant for 14 years. She joined Google in 2008, four years before Facebook went public.

“When I accepted this position in 2008, I hoped to hold this position for five years. Fourteen years later, it’s time for me to write the next chapter of my life.” Sandberg wrote: on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

Sandberg ran Facebook’s advertising business – now Meta – and was responsible for growing it from its inception into a more than $100 billion-a-year powerhouse. As the company’s second most recognized face – after CEO Mark Zuckerberg – Sandberg has also become a polarizing figure amid revelations about how some of her business decisions for Facebook helped spread misinformation and hate speech.

As one of the most prominent female executives in the tech industry, she’s also often been criticized for not doing enough for both women and others harmed by Facebook’s products. His expertise in public speaking, his seemingly effortless ability to bridge the worlds of technology, business and politics stood in stark contrast to Zuckerberg, especially in Facebook’s early years. But Zuckerberg has since caught up, trained in part for the several congressional hearings in which he was called to testify in defense of Facebook’s practices.

Neither Sandberg nor Zuckerberg gave any indication that Sandberg’s resignation was not his decision. But she has also appeared somewhat sidelined in recent years, other executives close to Zuckerberg, such as Chris Cox – who returned in 2020 as Chief Product Officer after a year-long hiatus from the company – have become more important.

“Sheryl Sandberg has had a huge impact on Facebook, Meta and the broader business world. She has helped Facebook build a world-class ad buying platform and develop breakthrough ad formats,” said Debra Aho Williamson , an analyst at Insider Intelligence.But she added that Facebook has faced “huge scandals” under Sandberg’s watch – including the 2016 US presidential election, the 2018 Cambridge Analytica debacle and the riot of 2021 at the US Capitol.

And now Meta is “facing a slowdown in user growth and ad revenue that is now testing the business foundation on which the company was built,” she said. “The company needs to find a new way forward, and perhaps it was the best time for Sandberg to leave.”

Sandberg is leaving Meta in the fall and will continue to serve on the company’s board.

Zuckerberg said in his Facebook post that Javier Olivan, who currently oversees key functions for Meta’s four core apps – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – will serve as Meta’s new COO. But it will be a different job than the one Sandberg has had for the past 14 years.

“This will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will focus internally and operationally, building on his strong track record to make our execution more efficient and rigorous,” Zuckerberg wrote.

While Sandberg has long been Zuckerberg’s No. 2, even sitting next to him — before the pandemic, at least — at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., she also had a job that was very public, meeting with legislators, hosting focus groups and speaking out on issues such as working women and, more recently, abortion.

“I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more tightly integrated, rather than having all business and operational functions organized separately from our products,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Sandberg, who suddenly lost her husband Dave Goldberg in 2015, said she was “not entirely sure what the future holds”.

“But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important than ever to me given how critical this time is for women,” she wrote, adding that she is also getting married this summer and that parenting their extended family of five children will also be part of that future.

THE ADULT IN THE ROOM

Sandberg, now 52, ​​first helped Google build what quickly became the largest and most lucrative advertising network on the Internet. But she left that job to take on the challenge of turning Facebook’s freewheeling social network into a lucrative business while helping mentor Zuckerberg, who was then 23 from 38.

She proved to be just what the then immature Zuckerberg and company needed at the right time, helping pave the way for Facebook’s highly anticipated IPO a decade ago.

While Zuckerberg remained the visionary and controlling shareholder of Facebook, Sandberg became the driving force behind a business fueled by a rapidly growing digital advertising business that has become almost as successful as the one she helped reconcile around the world. Google’s dominant search engine.

Much like Google’s advertising empire, Facebook’s business has thrived on its ability to keep users coming back for more free services while leveraging its social networking technology to learn more about interests, habits and people’s movements – a curious pattern that has repeatedly entangled the company in debates over whether a right to privacy still exists in the increasingly digital age.

As one of the top female executives in tech, Sandberg has sometimes been seen as an inspiration to working women — a role she seemed to embrace with a 2013 bestselling book titled ” Lean In: Women, Work and the Will”. Carry out.”

But “Lean In” received immediate criticism. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Sandberg “a PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots,” and critics suggested she was the wrong person to lead a women’s movement.

She addressed some of these criticisms in a later book which dealt with her husband’s death., Dave Goldberg. In 2015, she became a symbol of heartbreaking grief when Goldberg died in an accident while working on holiday, the widow with two children as she continued to help run one of the world’s best-known companies .

CRACKS IN THE FACADE

In recent years, Sandberg has become a polarizing figure amid revelations about how some of his business decisions for Facebook helped spread misinformation and hate speech. Critics and a company whistleblower say the aftermath has undermined democracy and caused serious emotional problems for teenagers, especially girls.

“The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” author Shoshana Zuboff says Sandberg is as responsible as anyone for what Zuboff considers one of Big Tech’s most insidious inventions: the collection and organization of data. on the behavior and preferences of social media users. For years, Facebook shared user data not only with advertisers, but also with business partners.

Sandberg did this, Zuboff wrote, “through the shrewd manipulation of Facebook’s culture of intimacy and sharing.”

Zuboff calls Sandberg the “Typhoid Mary” of surveillance capitalism, the term for profiting from collecting data about online behavior, preferences, shared data and social media user relationships.

“Sheryl Sandberg may call herself a feminist, but her decisions at Meta have made social media platforms less safe for women, people of color, and even threatened America’s electoral system. Sandberg had the power to act for fourteen years, but always chose not to,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, a gender justice advocacy organization, which has called for Sandberg’s resignation, in an emailed comment Wednesday.

Sandberg has made public missteps at the company, including his attempt to deflect blame from Facebook for the January 6, 2021, uprising at the United States Capitol. In an interview later that month that was carried by Reuters, she said she believed the day’s events were “largely staged on platforms that lack our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”

Internal documents revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen later that year, however, showed that Facebook’s own employees were concerned about the company’s wavering and often reversed response to rising extremism. United States which culminated with the events of January 6.

“Haven’t we had enough time to figure out how to manage the discourse without allowing violence? an employee wrote on an internal bulletin board at the height of the January 6 turmoil. “We’ve been stoking this fire for a long time and shouldn’t be surprised it’s now out of control.”

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AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this story.

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