BOSTON (CBS) — “We have to recognize the full weight of our responsibilities,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told the graduates at last spring’s MIT commencement. But has she been practicing what she preaches?
Sandberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have maintained they didn’t know about Russian manipulation of their website during the 2016 election and moved aggressively to stop it once they did know.
But according to New York Times reporting, they actually “ignored warning signs” of Russian interference and “sought to conceal them from public view.” And that’s not all.
The Times found Facebook contracted with a right-leaning Washington D.C. consulting firm called Definers Public Affairs which reportedly promoted public criticism of competitors Apple and Google and “played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.” That firm also allegedly tried to smear Facebook critics by linking them to controversial billionaire donor and philanthropist George Soros and suggest that those critics were somehow anti-semitic.
In an exclusive CBS phone interview, Sandberg denied everything, claiming: “I wasn’t involved in any of that.”
But Sen. Amo Klobuchar, once a Sandberg friend, is unpersuaded. “The question still remains, what did they do, and how much did they spend on it and did they spend it against elected officials?” she asks. Klobuchar is one of four senators calling for a federal probe of what Facebook executives knew and when they knew it.
But for now, Sandberg’s mantra remains – do as I say, not as I do.
“It’s not enough to have a good idea,” she told those MIT grads. “You have to know when to stop a bad one”
There’s much more in the Times expose, which paints Sandberg as a ruthless, growth-obsessed executive unwilling to honestly address Facebook’s glaring flaws, quite a contrast with her self-styled image as an enlightened private-sector role model. It’s a comedown comparable to what’s happened to the tech industry itself, once revered as a force for positive social change, now increasingly reviled as a case study in placing greed over the public good.