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Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg Says Leaving Company After 14 Years, Javier Olivan to Replace Her

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Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, whose close partnership with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg powered the growth of the world’s biggest social network, is leaving the company after 14 years, she said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The announcement initially sent the social media firm’s shares down 4 percent, but the stock was nearly flat in after hours trade.

“When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years. Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” she wrote.

Chief Growth Officer Javier Olivan will take over as chief operating officer, Zuckerberg said in a separate Facebook post, although he added that he did not plan to replace Sandberg’s role directly within the company’s existing structure.

“I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products,” he said.

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Olivan has worked at Meta for more than 14 years and has led teams handling Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Sandberg’s departure marks an end of an era for Meta, which is shifting focus toward hardware products and the “metaverse” after years of scandals over privacy abuses and the spread of conspiratorial content on its platforms, as well as plateauing user growth on its flagship app Facebook.

The second-in-command to founder Zuckerberg, who was 23 years old when he hired her, Sandberg is one of the most visible executives at the company and the lead architect of its often-criticized ads-based business model.

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Bringing management experience and knowledge of the then-nascent digital ads industry, she transformed Facebook from a buzzy startup into a revenue behemoth, while also positioning herself as the face of feminism in corporate America.

At the time, Facebook was making $272 million (roughly Rs. 2,100 crore) in revenue, for a net loss of $56 million (roughly Rs. 430 crore), according to regulatory filings. By 2011, a year before the company’s initial public offering, its revenue had shot to $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 28,700 crore) on $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,800 crore) in profits.

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Meta ended 2021 with revenue of $118 billion (roughly Rs. 9,15,600 crore) and earnings of $39.4 billion (roughly Rs. 3,05,700 crore).

Sandberg said in her post that she will continue to serve on Meta’s board after leaving the company in the fall.

When asked about her next steps, she told Reuters she was focusing on philanthropy at a “critical moment for women.”

“We’ve hired so many great leaders. I feel really good about that. The next leadership team is in place to take the company forward,” she said, mentioning Chief Business Officer Marne Levine and President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg by name.

Staunch defender

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Sandberg has been a staunch defender of Facebook over the course of its many controversies, consistently arguing that executives were learning from their mistakes and honing the company’s tools to better police against harmful content.

She told Reuters last year that she and Zuckerberg had a responsibility to fix systems that had failed, while rejecting reports that she was losing power at the company.

“People love headlines about corporate drama, and I think it’s fair to say they particularly love headlines about sidelining women,” she said in the January 2021 interview.

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Sandberg’s tenure covered both Facebook’s original settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission in 2011 for privacy violations and a subsequent blockbuster $5 billion (roughly Rs. 38,800 crore) settlement for violations of the earlier deal.

She and Zuckerberg were among those that then-Commissioner Rohit Chopra said should have faced more investigation for their roles in the company’s behavior.

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Under her leadership, the company was buffeted by revelations in 2018 that UK consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of its US users to target election advertising.

The same year, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled violence against the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

She courted additional criticism when she told Reuters early last year she believed events around the January 6 attack on the US Capitol were largely organized on other platforms, although researchers had identified similar activity on Facebook as well.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen late last year accused the social media giant of repeatedly prioritizing profit over clamping down on hate speech and misinformation, and said her lawyers had filed at least eight complaints with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under former President Bill Clinton.

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A Harvard University graduate, Sandberg is the author of several books, including the 2013 feminist manifesto “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Mark Zuckerberg Calls Apple’s App Store Moderation Rules a ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies. “It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times DealBook conference. The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple,” he added.

App Store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences. Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Zuckerberg echoed some of Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests.” Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker, saying he met with CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Zuckerberg hedged his comments — he said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

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On whether Meta would allow former US President Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

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Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs, and took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse. Still, Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong.” Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetization target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped.”

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China.

Zuckerberg also raised the issue of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance, adding that there are “real questions” about the influence of China’s government on TikTok. “In a lot of countries, all data goes to the government,” the CEO said.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Twitter Faces Ban Over Content Moderation, EU Chief Warns Elon Musk: Report

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The European Union has threatened Elon Musk’s Twitter with a ban unless the billionaire abides by its strict rules on content moderation, setting up a regulatory battle over the future of the social media platform, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat during a video meeting with Musk on Wednesday, the FT reported, citing people with knowledge of the conversation.

Breton told Musk he must adhere to a checklist of rules, including ditching an “arbitrary” approach to reinstating banned users and agreeing to an “extensive independent audit” of the platform by next year, according to the report.

Twitter and the EU did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Breton had previously urged Musk to comply with landmark EU rules against online hate speech and disinformation. The European Commission’s justice chief Didier Reynders had also voiced similar comments.

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Reuters reported in October that Elon Musk had assured the European Commission that Twitter will continue to abide by tough European rules on illegal online content policing now the social network has passed under his ownership.

The assurances from Musk appeared to suggest a pragmatic attitude from the CEO of electric car maker Tesla, who has previously expressed his desire to see Twitter have fewer limits on content that can be posted.

In May this year, EU industry chief Thierry Breton met Musk in Texas and the two signalled agreement on EU digital media regulation ahead of Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

The previous meeting came weeks after the world’s richest man clinched a deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,40,270 crore) in cash.

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In a video with the two men posted on Twitter by Breton, the EU official tells Musk that he explained the Digital Services Act to Musk. “It fits pretty well with what you think we should do,” Breton tells Musk in a tweet that included the hashtag #DSA.

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“I think it’s exactly aligned with my thinking,” Musk responds.

The two did not go into detail on the new law, which levies hefty fines on companies if they do not control illegal content. The rules ban advertising aimed at children or based on religion, gender, race, and political opinions, for example.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Twitter Not Safer Under Elon Musk Leadership, Says Former Head of Trust and Safety

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Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.

Roth had tweeted after Musk’s takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire’s ownership.

Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: “No.”

Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former US President Donald Trump, last year.

His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.

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Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.

Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.

“One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do,” he said.

The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.

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The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.

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Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

But he defended Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off,” Roth said. “We saw people dead in the Capitol.”

Musk tweeted on November 19 that Trump’s account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favour of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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