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Trump ‘tested so many parts’ of Facebook: Cecilia Kang

In this article:
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'An Ugly Truth' author, Cecilia Kang, joins 'Influencers with Andy Serwer' to discuss Facebook's handling of misinformation during the Trump presidency.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Another interesting facet of his oversight, of course, is his relationship with Sheryl Sandberg. And that is something you really get into in the book. How did the company change after they met in 2007? And why did the years of the Trump presidency test their bond?

CECILIA KANG: Yes. So Sheryl Sandberg served a very important purpose in that she was a proven, successful executive at Google by the time she arrived at Facebook. And she arrived at Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg needed to scale. And he needed somebody who knew how to grow a business beyond just 100 million US users, but global.

They had shared aspirations to do that. And she knew how to create a profit center. She knew how to create a business model. So their relationship was very intricately twined, and they had mutual goals throughout the very first years. They definitely differed, and there was tension in that Mark Zuckerberg did not want to do a lot of the things that Sheryl Sandberg eventually took up doing, which was policy and communications, government relations, legal, and growing the business.

What happened was during the Trump years-- and this is why we focus on this period, sort of election to election-- is that Trump in many ways tested so many parts of the business, so many of the things that were already systemic and intrinsic to the business model, and the technology, and the culture. And so once Trump came, and controversy surfaced, and lots of these problems and scandals emerged, Mark Zuckerberg seized much more control.

And importantly, what we saw is that Sheryl Sandberg, who was the counterbalance to some of his impulses and his personality, did not push back as much as I think many people internally, from what we heard, hoped she would. She was supposed to be the adult in the room when she was hired.

And in many cases, she was very concerned about pushing too hard against her boss and angering him. He had lost, also, some faith in her as well in that he was really mad that the company's reputation was deteriorating during the Trump years. And he cast some blame on her-- and I would say probably unfairly, because a lot of the problems came from his side of the business, which was product.