Seems that I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about Sheryl Sandberg’s malign role in Facebook’s cynical campaign to evade responsibility for the damage the company is doing. The NYT investigation of Facebook’s campaign to escape the consequences of its actions (and of its business model) highlighted the aggressive role she played in that. Here’s an interesting take on Sandberg from Jessica Crispin in today’s Guardian:
Whether those problems are caused by Russians who sought to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump or the Myanmar military seeking to cleanse its state of the Rohingya people, Facebook has stubbornly delayed examining its role in geopolitical shifts all over the world. But people have been writing articles about the misdeeds of social media platforms for years, and little oversight, internal reform, or mass exodus of users ever follows.
The newest piece did reveal one thing, however: the vital role COO Sheryl Sandberg played in all of this. This is not the story, however, of the one woman bravely speaking truth to power. Nor is it the ethical influence a celebrated feminist leader had on a company concerned primarily with protecting its economic well being and that of its shareholders. Rather, Sandberg yelled at her employee, Facebook’s security chief, for daring to investigate these issues, and then tried to cover up all he had found. Sandberg also played a pivotal role in lobbying top lawmakers in Washington DC to limit unwanted regulation and scrutiny.
Sandberg, of course, became an aspirational heroine among mainstream, self-empowerment feminists with her 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead…
In January 2015, when the Davos elite-fest was in full swing, I wrote an Observer column ridiculing the fatuous ‘reports’ Facebook used to issue round that time, asserting that the company’s impact on jobs and prosperity was substantial and very positive. It was all hooey, of course. But on the Sunday morning when the piece was published, Sandberg came up to a friend of mine who is a senior figure in the World Economic Forum (the outfit that runs the Davos event) at breakfast and asked him plaintively: “Why does John Naughton hate us?”
Looks like I was ahead of the pack — for once.
What makes this doubly interesting is that Sandberg reportedly was at one time fantasising about running for President (of the US).