Mark Zuckerberg and his deputy Sheryl Sandberg have ‘drifted apart’ following disagreements about his handling of Trump, according to a new book – with the staunch Democrat left ‘burning with humiliation’ at having to defend some of Facebook’s policies.
Sandberg, 51, is said to have taken exception to Zuckerberg’s wooing of the former president, which included showing him internal data revealing he had the most Facebook engagements of any politician and refusing to take down a fake video of Nancy Pelosi slurring her words.
The 37-year-old CEO was determined to prove Facebook was not biased against conservatives, leaving his staunch Democrat deputy increasingly isolated, while Zuckerberg has also become ‘critical of her handling of public relations’, the new book claims.
Sandberg, 51, is said to have taken exception to Zuckerberg’s wooing of the former president. The pair are pictured at a tech summit Thursday in Sun Valley, Idaho
Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frankel, authors An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, spoke to dozens of former and current Facebook staff who said that the appearance of Zuckerberg and Sandberg still being close is misleading.
Although the pair still meet together twice a week, Zuckerberg is ‘less swayed by Ms. Sandberg’s view’ than he was when he first hired her to do the bits of his job he found ‘boring’ 13 years ago, the authors say in an extract obtained by the New York Times.
Facebook spokesman Dani Lever strongly rejected the allegations, saying that judging from the extracts the company had seen so far, the authors tell ‘a false narrative based on selective interviews, many from disgruntled individuals, and cherry-picked facts.’
‘The fault lines that the authors depict between Mark and Sheryl and the people who work with them do not exist,’ she said. ‘All of Mark’s direct reports work closely with Sheryl and hers with Mark. Sheryl’s role at the company has not changed.
‘The excerpts are typical of attacks on women leaders – denying their power, dismissing their competence, and marginalizing their roles and relationships.’
Zuckerberg first hired Sandberg to deal with political matters due to her long experience in Washington DC, but as soon as Trump, who she ‘didn’t like’, became president, he increasingly disagreed with her and made key politics-related decisions himself, it is alleged.
Zuckerberg shaking hands with Trump at the White House on September 19, 2019
Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, was said to be ‘mourning’ Hilary Clinton’s defeat, and lacked contacts in the new Republican administration due to her Democrat leanings. She is an active fundraiser for the party.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg went out of his way to cultivate Trump, with the pair at one point enjoying a cosy meeting in the White House in September 2019 where he showed him internal data showing that the Republican had the highest engagement of any politician on Facebook.
One key moment of tension for Facebook’s two top executives was the question of what to do about a doctored photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring her speech, which quickly racked up millions of views on the platform.
After a long consideration process, Zuckerberg decided not to take the video down, in spite of the fact that Sandberg thought ‘there was a good argument to take the video down under rules against disinformation’.
Kang and Frankel claim this tested the relationship between Zuckerberg and Sandberg, the latter of whom had actively fostered a good relationship with Pelosi.
When Sandberg was later challenged over this decision and other issues involving privacy and regulation in an interview with TV host Katie Couric, she presented a calm defence of the company.
Zuckerberg and Sandberg were seen chatting together Thursday on the third day of an annual ‘billionaire summer camp’ in Sun Valley
But this was all for show, claims the book – due to be published next week. ‘She later told aides that inside, she was burning with humiliation,’ it says.
Zuckerberg was also said to be disappointed at Sandberg’s public relations work, which included handling the outcry over elect interference and the revelation that political consulting firm had harvested data from Facebook to help Trump target voters.
Among her responsibilities were containing public anger over both scandals and charming Washington on Facebook’s behalf, but she had limited success.
Facebook spokesman Dani Lever denied that Sandberg had any less involvement with policy issues than she has had been previously.
‘Both Mark and Sheryl have spent more time on policy issues – and hired more senior members to the team, including Nick Clegg who reports to Sheryl,’ she said.
‘These areas demanded more time, attention and focus, which both Mark and Sheryl have given them.’
Zuckerberg and Sandberg were pictured together Thursday on the third day of an annual ‘billionaire summer camp’ in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, which was also attended by Bill Gates.
Philanthropist Bill Gates also made an appearance on the third day of the annual ‘billionaire summer camp’ in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho on Thursday.
A doctored video, which was seen millions of times, showed Pelosi slurring her words and appearing to stare off vacantly into space as reporters ask her questions during a Capitol Hill conference
‘The Zuck’ cut a casual figure in $35 Adidas flip flops as he conferred with his second in command.
It came as Facebook was named alongside Twitter and YouTube in a class action lawsuit launched by Trump in a bid to get his accounts reinstated.
Zuckerberg, along with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai were personally named in the lawsuit, announced at a press conference Wednesday in New Jersey.
Trump has been suspended from the platforms since January, when his followers violently stormed the Capitol building, trying to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win.
The companies cited concerns that Trump would incite further violence and have kept him locked out.
All three declined comment on Wednesday.
‘We’re asking the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people,’ Trump said of the filings.
‘We’re going to hold big tech very accountable.’
Twitter, Facebook and Google are all private companies, and users must agree to their terms of service to use their products.