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Authors Say Trump Era Drove Zuckerberg, Sandberg Apart

Facebook's No. 1, No. 2 disagreed over policy on misinformation, new book says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2021 12:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – Over 13 years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have built one of the world's most powerful companies—but their close working relationship did not survive Donald Trump's presidency, according to a New York Times report adapted from upcoming book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination. Authors Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang say Facebook's business more than doubled during the Trump years, but a rift between Zuckerberg and Sandberg grew over misinformation from Trump and his allies and the fallout from Russian election meddling. They say Zuckerberg was far more willing to accommodate Trump than Sandberg—who is 15 years older than Zuckerberg and has longstanding Democratic Party connections—and over time, he took over areas she had once dealt with and made decisions she lobbied against.

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One of many points of disagreement was a 2019 viral video altered to make it seem that Nancy Pelosi was slurring her words. It spread widely among private, highly partisan political groups on Facebook, and while Sandberg said there was a good argument for taking it down, Zuckerberg made the final decision to leave it in place. Months later, he delivered a speech defending Facebook's decision not to censor misinformation. Frenkel and Kang's sources say Sandberg spoke to colleagues furious about his "direct contradiction to the core values she promoted in public," but she told them there was little she could do. The sources say over the Trump years, the upper ranks at Facebook came to see the company as "no longer led by a No. 1 and No. 2, but a No. 1 and many." Zuckerberg and Sandberg still meet twice a week and a company spokesperson says reports of "fault lines" between them are untrue. (Read more Facebook stories.)

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