Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime No. 2 head, is resigning

Cheryl Sandberg, head of № 2 Facebook Meta owner, is resigning, according to a message Wednesday on her Facebook page.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Cheryl Sandberg, head of № 2 at Facebook Meta, which helped turn her business from a startup into a digital advertising empire and also took the blame for some of her biggest mistakes, is retiring.

Sandberg has 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 joined this job in 2008, I hoped to be in this position for five years. Fourteen years later, it’s time for me to write the next chapter of my life, ”Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday.

Sandberg ran Facebook’s advertising business – now Meta – and was responsible for bringing it up from its inception to a powerful center worth more than $ 100 billion a year. As the company’s second most famous figure – after CEO Mark Zuckerberg – Sandberg has also become a polarizing figure amid revelations of how some of her Facebook business solutions have helped spread disinformation and hate speech.

As one of the most prominent women executives in the technology industry, she has also often been criticized for not doing enough for both women and others affected by Facebook products. Her experience of public speaking, her seemingly easy ability to connect the worlds of technology, business and politics were a stark contrast to Zuckerberg, especially in the early years of Facebook. But Zuckerberg has since caught up, partially prepared for several hearings in Congress at which he was summoned to testify in defense of Facebook’s practice.

Neither Sandberg nor Zuckerberg showed that Sandberg’s resignation was not her decision. But in recent years, it has also turned somewhat aside, as other executives close to Zuckerberg, such as Chris Cox, who returned in 2020 as chief product officer after a year-long break at the company, have become more prominent.

“Cheryl Sandberg has had a huge impact on Facebook, Meta and the wider business world. It has helped Facebook create a platform for buying world-class advertising and developing innovative advertising formats, ”said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at Insider Intelligence. But she added that Facebook has faced “huge scandals” under Sandberg’s oversight – including the US presidential election in 2016, the defeat of privacy at Cambridge Analytica in 2018 and the Capitol riot in 2021.

And now Meta “is facing a slowdown in user growth and advertising revenue, which is now testing the foundation of the business on which the company was built,” she said. “Companies need to find a new way forward, and perhaps this was the best time for Sandberg to leave.”

Sandberg will leave Meta in the fall and will continue to be a member of the company’s board of directors.

Zuckerberg said in his own Facebook post that Javier Olivan, who currently oversees the key features of the four main Meta apps – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – will become the new CEO of Meta. But it will be a different job than the one Sandberg has held for the past 14 years.

“This will be the more traditional role of chief operating officer, where Xavi will be focused internally and promptly, drawing on his solid experience in making our execution more efficient and rigorous,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Although Sandberg has long been No. 2 for Zuckerberg, even sitting next to him – at least before the pandemic – at the company’s headquarters in Menla Park, California, she also had a very public job, meeting with lawmakers. conducted focus groups and spoke on issues such as women in the workplace and, more recently, abortion.

“I think Meta has reached a point where it makes sense to more closely integrate our products and business groups rather than organizing all business and operational functions separately from our products,” Zuckerberg wrote.

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

“But I know it will involve more focus on my foundation and charity, which is more important to me than ever, given how important this moment is for women,” she wrote, adding that she, too. getting married this summer and raising their extended family of five will also be part of this future.

REMEMBERED IN MEMORY

Sandberg, now 52, ​​helped Google build what quickly became the largest – and most lucrative – advertising network on the Internet. But she left the post to take on the task of turning the free social network Facebook into a money-making business, as well as helping mentor Zuckerberg, who was then 23 and she was 38.

It turned out to be exactly what Zuckerberg and the company were still immature at the right time, helping to pave the way for the long-awaited initial public offering of Facebook shares ten years ago.

While Zuckerberg remained Facebook’s far-sighted and controlling shareholder, Sandberg became the engine of a business fueled by a fast-growing digital advertising business that became almost as successful as the one she helped unite around Google’s dominant search engine.

Like Google’s advertising empire, Facebook’s business has thrived on the ability to force users to return to new free services while using social media technology to learn more about people’s interests, habits and whereabouts – an interesting pattern that has repeatedly confused the company in debates. , whether there is a right to personal privacy in an increasingly digital age.

As one of the leading women leaders in technology, Sandberg was sometimes considered an inspiration for working women – a role she seemed to play with the 2013 bestseller “Lean: Women, Work and the Lead to Lead.”

But “Lean In” was immediately criticized. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Sandberg a “PowerPoint in Rada ankle boots,” and critics have suggested she is not the right person to lead the women’s movement.

Part of this criticism she expressed in the next book, which described the death of her husband Dave Goldberg. In 2015, she became a symbol of grief when Goldberg died in an accident while on vacation, widowed with two children, when she continued to help run one of the most famous companies in the world.

TRINY IN THE FACADE

In recent years, Sandberg has grown into a polarizing figure amid revelations of how some of her business solutions for Facebook have helped spread disinformation and hate speech. Critics and informants of the campaign claim that the consequences have undermined democracy and caused serious emotional problems for teenagers, especially girls.

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

Sandberg did this, Zuboff wrote, “through cunning manipulations of a culture of intimacy and sharing on Facebook.”

Zuboff calls Sandberg the “typhoid Maria” of tracking capitalism, a term for making money from collecting data on social media user behavior, their preferences, shared data, and attitudes.

“Cheryl Sandberg may consider herself a feminist, but her decisions at Meta have made social media platforms less secure for women, people of color, and even threatened the American electoral system. Sandberg has had the power to take action for fourteen years, but has consistently chosen not to, ”said Sean Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, a gender justice organization that called for Sandberg’s resignation, in an e-mail commentary on Wednesday.

Sandberg had some public mistakes in the campaign, including her attempt to remove from Facebook the blame for the uprising at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. In an interview later that month with Reuters, she said she thought the day’s events were “largely organized on platforms that do not have our ability to stop hatred, do not have our standards and do not have our transparency.” .

Internal documents disclosed by informant Francis Haugen later that year show that Facebook’s own employees were concerned about the company’s closure and often overturned the response to the rise of US extremism that erupted in the January 6 event.

“Didn’t we have enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without allowing violence?” one employee wrote on an internal bulletin board in the midst of the January 6 unrest. “We’ve been lighting this fire for a long time, and we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s out of control now.”

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AP Technology writer Frank Bayak of Boston contributed to this story.

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