Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who was reportedly concerned about her job security during the Cambridge Analytica data scandal fallout, is facing intense scrutiny after a scathing New York Times report last week.
As pressure on the social media giant's leadership mounts and employees' morale has dropped in the wake of the 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 the platform, Sandberg's track record as second-in-command is being probed.
The Times claimed that Sandberg worked in secret to prevent Facebook's board and the public from learning the full extent of Russia's misinformation campaign on the network and that Sandberg was "seething" at Facebook's former security chief Alex Stamos and yelled that he "threw us under the bus." Also, it is Sandberg who — despite her role overseeing Facebook's communications and policy efforts — said last week that she did not know the tech giant hired the opposition research firm Definers Public Affairs nor of its efforts to push negative stories about other companies.
This spring, Zuckerberg reportedly told Sandberg, who used to be the chief of staff for U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, 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 Wall Street Journal reports that Sandberg told friends the exchange rattled her and she considered whether she should be worried about her job
When 34-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked about Sandberg during Thursday's 90-minute press briefing, he said:
“I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I was not in the loop on a bunch of these decisions. And I should have been clearer that I think the team has made a bunch of these decisions. And I think Sheryl was also not involved; she learned about this at the same time that I did. And we talked about this and came to the conclusion about what we should do here. "
Zuckerberg went on to say: "Overall, Sheryl is doing great work for the company. She’s been a very important partner to me and continues to be, and will continue to be. She’s leading a lot of the efforts to improve our systems in these areas. While these are big issues, I think we’re making a lot of progress. And a lot of that is because of the work that she is doing.”
For her part, Sandberg called the Times' claim that she was disinterested in Russian election interference "simply untrue."
At a time when 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, 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. Also, 53 percent said Facebook is making the world better, a 19 point drop from last year.
The same survey that showed a drop in morale, however, also showed that Facebook's overall favorability rating is 70 percent, which is only down by 2 points. Even as the company faces a host of challenges externally and internally, its employees continue to roll out new products or update existing ones, including Portal, Oculus Quest, Facebook Dating and updates to Facebook Watch.
Facebook employees are trying to stay focused on developing innovative products during a tumultuous time, a source familiar with the survey told Fox News.
Still, the drumbeat of the negative press seems to have made some employees uneasy, according to posts that Bloomberg obtained from an anonymous employee chat app known as Blind:
"Why does our company suck at having a moral compass?" one employee asked.
Another employee wrote that Zuckerberg "defers too much" on various issues when he should make the call.
According to the Journal, some of Sandberg's recent public comments were upsetting for people on the communications team at Facebook because of how closely involved she's been in managing the tech giant's media strategy.
The newspaper reports that during a Friday Q&A with employees, Sandberg took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.