It was not really expected, but it did not come as a surprise. Facebook / Meta’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has announced that she is resigning from her senior position at Facebook / Meta, which made her one of the most powerful figures in the business world after she joined the company in 2008.
As the architect behind Facebook’s lucrative and socially consistent user-based advertising business, Sandberg honed what has become a toxic and secretive revenue model for user monitoring that has given Facebook dizzying wealth and worldwide control and influence.
Fourteen years later, as she steps out of the management suite and on to Meta’s board, it is certainly no understatement to say that the world is still struggling to address the political and social consequences of her instinct to link user engagement with data collection, collecting and then artificially monetize the resulting user profiles. Without her voice in the ear of the then 23-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook may have been another short-term social networking marvel, going the dark way from MySpace and a number of other hopefuls in the era. Wishful thinking now.
Sandberg was once a constant face on the outside of the company and has become a noticeably subdued presence
But what a strange departure. More of a whine than a slap from a businessman of such strength and size, Sandberg announced that she was leaving via a post to, of course, Facebook, where the answers were led by, no really, Zuckerberg. Unlike Facebook posts made by pretty much any other public person, you can flip through the comments for miles and still find nothing but overflowing farewell.
Do what you want – everything seems suspiciously micro-managed and “here is one I prepared earlier”. For Sandberg, it was certainly not a benign presence. In addition to the period after she published businesswomen’s empowerment manifesto Lean In, when she made exuberant rounds of what seemed like all the other talk shows and conferences, Sandberg became increasingly controversial.
She was taken out – often as a surrogate for the more lustful and vague Zuckerberg – to take care of the public management of a growing series of corporate crises, from the data leak scandal in Cambridge Analytica where information from 87 million Facebook users passed on to a company with connections to Donald Trump’s 2016 election and the alleged Brexit campaign, to her disproved denial that Facebook’s platform was used extensively to organize the uprising in the United States on January 6, 2021.
Recently, document leaks from former Facebook employees hurt Frances Haugen Sandberg, revealing high-level internal knowledge about problems that the company publicly denied and a reluctance to responsibly acknowledge and address them. Last year, in their book on Facebook’s growing misery, An Ugly Truth, New York Times journalists Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang offered evidence of growing internal tensions as Sandberg was increasingly sidelined by Zuckerberg.
Sandberg has once been a constant face on the outside of the company, and Sandberg has become a noticeably subdued presence, with the prominent Facebook / Meta employee Nick Clegg, former leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, stepping into the usual corporate spokesperson / defense role . It has been an occasional surprise to see Sandberg.
Regardless of the current relationship between Zuckerberg and Sandberg – and it’s hard to believe evidence that she has been systematically neutralized and relocated – there is something very non-Lean In with Sandberg’s departure post, its enchanting celebration of Zuckerberg and its designed for public consumption , cotton. -wooled answers (ie Facebook, ie Insta).
What better place to shunt someone you may have haunted than to the enigmatic Meta’s board
Example: “Sitting by Mark’s side during these 14 years has been an honor and a privilege for life. Mark is a true visionary and a caring leader. He sometimes says that we grew up together, and we have … In the critical moments of my life, in the highest peaks and in the depths of true valleys, I have never had to turn to Mark, because he was already there .. . Thanks […] especially to Mark because he gave me this opportunity and because he was one of the best friends anyone can ever have. “
And I would like to thank the Academy.
But Mark-gushing is actually topped by Zuckerberg’s seemingly ironic response, which is the first comment (should we think he hovered over the keyboard?). It includes the tribute: “During the 14 years we have worked together, you have shaped our advertising business … created our management culture and taught me how to run a business.”
What a brief list of the top-line problems with Facebook / Meta, the basis for the widely documented corporate disasters that plague the rest of us, which undermine democracy and bring threats and harm to individuals, even entire populations. It’s the advertising industry, the management culture and how Zuckerberg runs the company.
Or maybe it’s Facebook’s equivalent of a subtweet, an attempt to shift the blame. There are friends, then there are Facebook “friends”.
Anyway: what better place to shunt someone you may have haunted than to the enigmatic Meta board, eternally silent about the company’s most serious actions and failures, and toothless in its design, structurally incapable of holding Zuckerberg accountable or removing him as CEO.
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