Sheryl Sandberg’s mixed legacy

Casey Newton points out “that Sandberg held many roles at Facebook over the years, and helped guide it through several tumultuous periods. In conversations with people who worked closely with her, though, there were really only two distinct eras in Sandberg’s time at Facebook. They fit neatly, into two seven-year periods.”

“From 2008 to 2015, Sandberg played a critical role in Facebook’s rise. Coming from a top business job at Google, she gave the young company a credibility among advertisers that it previously lacked. Mark Zuckerberg trusted her with functions that he viewed as less critical to the company’s success than the product and growth teams on which he spent more of his time.”

Shira Ovide, writing for the New York Times

Sandberg spearheaded a plan to build from scratch a more sophisticated system of advertising that was largely based on what she had helped develop at Google. Ads on Facebook were tied to people’s activities and interests on the site. As at Google, many advertisers bought Facebook ads online rather than through sales personnel, as had been typical for TV or newspaper ads. Later, Sandberg cultivated new systems for Facebook advertisers to pinpoint their potential customers with even more precision.

Google and Facebook transformed product marketing from largely an art to a sometimes creepy science, and Sandberg is among the architects of that change. She shares in the credit (or blame) for developing two of the most successful, and perhaps least defensible, business models in internet history.

All the anxiety today about apps snooping on people to glean every morsel of activity to better pitch us dishwashers — that’s partly Sandberg’s doing.

“The second era, from 2016 on, looked very different.”

Shira Ovide, writing for the New York Times

Sandberg was also partly responsible for Facebook’s failures during crucial moments, notably when the company initially denied and deflected blame for Russia-backed trolls that were abusing the site to inflame divisions among Americans ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

[…]​

Sandberg initially said publicly that Facebook played little role in the organizing of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. That wasn’t quite true. As my colleagues Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang reported, people used Facebook to spread misinformation about election fraud, which fueled anger among the protesters. Some rioters used Facebook to openly discuss the logistics of the attack ahead of time.

In their 2021 book, “An Ugly Truth,” Sheera and Cecilia wrote that to Sandberg’s detractors, her response was part of a pattern of trying to preserve the company’s reputation or her own rather than do the right thing.

Sandberg was also among those responsible for Facebook’s delayed or insufficient initial response in 2018 about news reports that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, was able to harvest personal information on many millions of Facebook users.

Sheryl Sandberg is leaving behind a mixed legacy for her time at Facebook. I applaud her for her work advocating for women. On the other hand, I deplore her for her partnership, in crime, with Zuckerberg making Facebook the shit hole that it is today. The final chapter of her legacy is yet to come. Let’s see how it turns out?

By the way, Mark it’s time for you to join Sheryl in leaving Facebook/Meta. It’s the end of an era and time for a new chapter.

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