Opinion | Sheryl Sandberg’s Long (Overdue) Goodbye

 

We understand how nicely that assertion aged. As the corporate stored backing away from it — whereas attempting to evaluate what actually occurred — it fell to Sandberg to attempt to clean out the ripples Zuckerberg made, on condition that she is as smooth as he’s awkward and as diplomatic as he’s, nicely, awkward.

As the extent of the issue got here into higher focus, I referred to as Sandberg to inform her that the affect of the corporate’s disinformation issues was going to engulf it and prove very badly for it.

“We are dealing with it,” she assured me in her patented soothing voice of purpose, after I pressed her concerning the significance of immediately coping with the results of Facebook’s innovations extra responsibly. I clearly sounded a little bit intense, as a result of she tried to calm me down within the “we’ve bought this” tone that had taken her up to now in her stellar enterprise profession. But I as a substitute grew extra anxious, together with in my first column for The Times, almost 4 years in the past, during which I laid it out in fairly stark phrases:

Facebook, in addition to Twitter and Google’s YouTube, have grow to be the digital arms sellers of the fashionable age … by weaponizing just about every thing that may very well be weaponized. They have mutated human communication, in order that connecting individuals has too typically grow to be about pitting them towards each other and turbocharged that discord to an unprecedented and damaging quantity.

They have weaponized social media. They have weaponized the First Amendment. They have weaponized civic discourse. And they’ve weaponized, most of all, politics.

To her credit score, Sandberg remained unfailingly cordial to me after that, a distinction to how most males in tech act when criticized. In the face of mounting scrutiny of Facebook — regarding information abuse, its cozying as much as President Donald Trump, how Instagram negatively impacts teen women and the mounds of disinformation on the service, masking every thing from vaccines to elections — Sandberg morphed into the corporate’s chief defender, typically of the indefensible.

That included a unprecedented try and deflect blame from Facebook for its function within the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. “These occasions had been largely organized on platforms that don’t have our skills to cease hate, don’t have our requirements and don’t have our transparency,” Sandberg mentioned in an interview every week later, at the same time as researchers had been turning up proof it was a key platform for group and communication for the rioters.

And in that second, Sandberg misplaced what remaining credibility she had in Washington, although she had as soon as operated the levers of energy there effortlessly. No longer, as she tethered her as soon as pristine fame to Zuckerberg, taking many extra slings and arrows than he.

As a lot duty as Sandberg had as a prime government on the firm, Zuckerberg has at all times been within the driver’s seat at Meta, the place he’s the controlling shareholder. “No matter his duty, he’s unkillable, unfireable and untouchable, and no quantity of leaning in by Ms. Sandberg or another lady in tech goes to alter that,” I famous in a 2018 column.

Thus, she, not Zuckerberg, must go, as Meta now leans into his bet-the-farm effort to dominate the following period by way of the so-called metaverse. Talented techie although he could also be, I’m doubtful that Zuckerberg can do what must be carried out to make his digital world a hit with out one other Sandberg kind at his aspect, even whereas throwing gobs of cash at it.


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