Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing increased pressure to defend himself as one of America’s premier media critics called for him to step aside as chairman of the board, citing a “serious crisis” at the tech giant.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote a scathing piece on Monday that declared Zuckerberg, 34, is “incapable of leading the broken behemoth that is Facebook.”
Parliamentary committees from eight countries have called for Zuckerberg to attend a Nov. 27 joint hearing in London on online disinformation, according to The Guardian. Canada, the UK, Australia, Argentina and Ireland, Brazil, Latvia and Singapore reportedly want Zuckerberg to discuss fake news and disinformation.
Facebook did not immediately respond when asked whether Zuckerberg would attend the hearing or comment on Sullivan’s column.
At the same time, things aren’t exactly peachy back home for the embattled Zuckerberg, either.
Sullivan — who was previously the public editor of the New York Times — wrote that the Facebook founder blame-shifts, hides, denies and speaks “in the worst kind of fuzzy corporate clichés” when he’s faced with business disasters. She then pointed to “two stunning pieces of journalism (that) show the scope of the problem, and how out of his depth” Zuckerberg truly is.
The first, she said, came when The New York Times published a 6,100-word report last week detailing the company's attempts over a two-year period to deny, delay or deflect blame over Russia's election manipulation on Facebook. The Times claimed that COO Sheryl Sandberg worked in secret to prevent Facebook's board and the public from learning the full extent of Russia's misinformation campaign.
The bombshell investigation detailed Facebook’s use of a shady opposition-research company. Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have publicly denied knowing that Definers Public Affairs was working for their company, although Sandberg told employees last week she takes "full responsibility" for decisions made by the communications team.
“To put it more bluntly, Facebook enabled a smear campaign against its critics,” Sullivan wrote.
Zuckerberg reportedly told Sandberg that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed the private data of 87 million Facebook users and used it for political purposes.
The second story Sullivan cited was a feature by Post reporter Eli Saslow that examined a blogger who spreads false information for a living.
“Together, these stories tell us once again what we already knew: That Facebook is a rudderless ship sailing toward the apocalypse — and we’re all along for the ride,” Sullivan wrote.
"Facebook is a rudderless ship sailing toward the apocalypse — and we’re all along for the ride."
The veteran media critic said that if Zuckerberg sticks around — despite investors calling for his job — then he should at least “step down as chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board.” Sullivan called Zuckerberg’s recent actions “appalling” and said he “seems to be reaching new lows.”
If Sullivan’s takedown wasn’t bad enough for the embattled executive, esteemed New York University professor Scott Galloway tweeted a detailed theory that Sandberg has only kept her job because of gender.
"Every day, senior execs fired for a fraction of the infractions committed by The Zuck and Sheryl Sandberg."
“The only reason Sheryl Sandberg has not been fired is because The Zuck can't be (fired). Nobody wants to be the board who "fires the woman" when her boss should bare (sic) responsibility… but doesn't as he's immune via 2 class stock,” Galloway wrote. “Every day, senior execs fired for a fraction of the infractions committed by The Zuck and Sheryl Sandberg.”
Meanwhile, Facebook is facing a host of challenges, including pushback from Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, stagnant or declining user growth in North America and Europe and a plunging stock price. Also, a survey shows that 52 percent of its employees said they were optimistic about Facebook's future, a drop of 32 points from a year ago, while 53 percent said Facebook is making the world better, a 19 point drop from last year.
Sullivan ended her scornful column by declaring, “Facebook, whether it wants to admit it or not, is in serious crisis. And its power is such that the crisis extends to everyone it touches — and beyond.”
Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this report.