It ‘s not clear how history will judge Sheryl Sandberg.
Sandberg, who said on Wednesday that he was quitting Meta after 14 years as commander of the company, leaves behind a complex professional and personal legacy.
She helped build the company formerly called Facebook into one of the world’s most influential and wealthy companies. Her writing and advocacy about women in the workplace and grief gave Sandberg influence on topics that few other American executives touched.
But Sandberg was also responsible for Facebook’s failures during critical moments, notably when the company was denied and defected to Russia-backed trolls that were abusing the site to inflame divisions among Americans ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. And while her 2013 book “Lean In” kicked off important conversations, some of her ideas now feel outdated.
As my colleagues wrote, “Sandberg is ending her tenure at the Meta far from the reputational pinnacle she reached last decade.”
Many of America’s superstar tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Oracle, have lived through recent transitions in which iconic founders have handed over power to hired hands. Sandberg is not the founder of Facebook, of course. But Facebook is not what it is today – both good and bad – without the partnership between Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s also difficult to imagine her departure significantly changing Facebook. That suggests that Sandberg’s biggest influence may have been in the past, and that she is no longer as important at Facebook as her supporters or her detractors believe.
An architecture of transforming digital advertising:
The 23-year-old Zuckerberg hired Sandberg in 2008 to figure out how to build a large and lasting business in Facebook. On that score, she succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams. But that legacy is complicated, too.
Sandberg spearheaded a plan to build from scratch a more sophisticated system of advertising that was largely based on what he had helped develop at Google. Ads on Facebook were tied to people’s activities and interests on the site. As at Google, many advertisers have purchased Facebook ads online rather than through sales personnel, as has 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 an art to a largely creepy science, and Sandberg is one of the architects of that change. She shares in the credit (or blame) for developing two of the most successful, and least defensible, business models in internet history.
All the anxiety today about snooping apps on people to glean every morsel’s activity better pitch us dishwashers – that’s clear Sandberg’s doing. So are Facebook and Google’s combined $ 325 billion in annual advertising sales and all those other online companies that make money from ads.
The pattern of deny, deflect, defend.
Sandberg initially stated that Facebook played little role in organizing 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 protesters. Some rioters used Facebook to openly discuss the logistics of the attack ahead of time.
In his 2021 book, “An Ugly Truth,” Sheera and Cecilia wrote that to Sandberg’s detractors, her response was part of trying to preserve a company’s reputation or do it rather than do the right thing.
Sandberg was also among those responsible for Facebook’s delayed or insufficient initial response in news reports in 2018 that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, was able to harvest personal information on many millions of Facebook users.
Facebook journalists and others who pay close attention to Facebook regularly asked in recent years why Sandberg chose to stay at the company. My colleague Mike Issac said in today’s DealBook newsletter that Sandberg lost influence as Zuckerberg assumed more command over the company. Other executives took over duties that were once Sandberg’s, including overseeing government policy.
Sandberg may once have believed that she could do far better in the world working at Facebook than she could outside the company, but it was difficult to tell if that was true anymore.
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Tip of the Week
How to report spam texts
Brian X. ChenThe Consumer Technology columnist for The New York Times, offers advice for being part of the solution to the scourge of bogus text messages.
In a recent column, I reported on the growing annoyance of text-message spam, which recently outpaced the rise of robocalls.
The texts may be shipping notices about a package that you didn’t order, or pitches for questionable health products like weight-loss pills. The texts inside the links typically point to a website asking you for your personal information, including your credit card number, which scammers could use for fraud.
There is no sign of SMS spam slowing down. So one of the best things you can do is become a part of the solution: Forward the spam text to your phone carrier.
That will help the carriers learn what phone numbers and language are being used in spam texts. That’s useful information to help carriers improve their technology to stop those messages from ever reaching your phone.
Here’s how to forward spam texts to the carriers:
On iPhones, tap and hold down the message and tap “More.” Then press the forward button, which is the arrow on the bottom-right corner of the screen. In the recipient field, enter 7726 and hit send.
On Android phones, tap and hold down on the message. When a menu pops up, select “Forward Message.” Enter 7726 in the Receive field and hit send.
Before we go…
A trial by TikTok: The jury delivered a verdict on Wednesday in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. My colleague Amanda Hess recently explored why the trial became a near-constant fan commentary on TikTok and other apps, most of which portrayed Depp as a hero and Heard as a villain.
Will it make children safer in schools if more of them bring phones to classrooms? Experts told The Washington Post that they didn’t recommend it, in part because they said children should focus their attention during an emergency like a school shooting on teachers and other educators, and a phone call could make unwanted noises during a silent lockdown. (A subscription may be required.)
The sound of nothing is obviously a big business: People who create Spotify audio mixes of just static, ocean waves or other white noise are making up to $ 18,000 a month, Bloomberg News reported. (A subscription may be required.)
Hugs to this
How does an overheated rhino cool off? By getting very mucky.
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