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Sheryl Sandberg, Resign

The Facebook COO’s denials about the platform’s role in the violence at the Capitol should be the last straw.


Hours after PresidentTrump falsely claimed victory in November’s election, having claimed for weeks that the election was a fraud & Democrats would try lớn steal it, a Facebook groupwas created, called “Stop the Steal.” Within a day, it had grown lớn 300,000members, reported Shayan Sardarizadeh và JessicaLussenhop at Đài truyền hình BBC Monitoring & BBC News Washington. Many of the posts repeatedTrump’s lies; some argued for “civil war.” Later that day, Facebook pulled thegroup, “but not before it had generated nearly half a million comments, shares,likes, & reactions.” In its absence, dozens more groups sprang up. OnNovember đôi mươi, Sarah Emerson at OneZero noted that two Stop the Steal Facebook groups, totaling more than 100,000 members, were still active. These were some of theearliest, most public stages of planning what became the deadly mob at theCapitol on January 6.

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“If you are notprepared to lớn use force khổng lồ defover civilization, then be prepared to lớn acceptbarbarism,” a member of the “Red-State Secession” Facebook group posted the day before the insurrection, according khổng lồ The Thủ đô New York Times: “Beneath it, dozensof people posted comments that included photographs of the weaponry—includingassault rifles—that they said they planned lớn bring khổng lồ the rally. There werealso comments referring lớn ‘occupying’ the Capitol & forcing Congress tooverturn the November election that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won—and Mr. Trumphad lost.”

“I think these eventswere largely organized on platforms that don’t have sầu our abilities to stop hate,and don’t have our standards & don’t have our transparency,” Sheryl Sandbergtold the Reuters Next conference on Monday, as the fallout from the Capitol riotwas still unfolding. This is not the first time Sandberg, the company’s chief operatingofficer, has performed this duty—the reasonable public face of the privatecompany with an outkích thước power over the public square.

Sandberg’s wordsfollow a familiar pattern in all Facebook P.R. efforts: They simultaneouslyembrace và downplay the company’s power. Yet, as Vice reported, “at the very moment Sandberg madethese comments, there were at least 60 ‘Stop the Steal’ groups active sầu onFacebook, some with tens of thousands of members và millions of interactions.”The same day Sandberg minimized Facebook’s role in service of the armed peoplewho tried khổng lồ take the Capitol, people who claimed responsibility for organizingthe mob were using Facebook và Instagram to lớn plan more of them.

Long before theevidence of Facebook’s repeated lies about its role in such acts of politicalviolence had piled up, some women in tech (and fewer in the media) saw whatSandbergwas really selling. Facebook is awebsite created for shaping a set of human interactions without our knowledgeand consent, for the purpose of enriching Facebook’s investors & executives.It is not mysterious how they make their money. Tracing Sandberg’s variousnonapology tours over the past 12 years makes this plain. “Sheryl SandbergApologizes for Facebook Emotion Manipulation Study … Kind Of” (July2014). “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg apologized for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal” (March2018). “Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Tuesday thecompany needs to lớn vày more to lớn protect its users from disinformation efforts,after researchers found Russian trolls attempted to suppress African-American voter turnout duringthe 2016 election” (November 2018). “Sheryl Sandberg gave an unconvincing speech about privacy just whenshe needed lớn sound sincere” (January 2019).

What Sheryl Sandbergis doing now—sweeping away Facebook’s role in and responsibility for fueling whatnow appears to lớn be an attempt to execute members of Congress—has been her jobfor as long as she has worked at Facebook. “A big theme of this hire is thatthere are parts of our operations that, to use a pretty trite phrase, need tobe taken to the next màn chơi,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told TheNew York Times when Sandberg joined his company in 2008, & the paper readbetween the lines: Sandberg’s job would be “essentially guiding how Facebookpresents itself và its intentions lớn the outside world.” Zuckerberg was 23, andhis company was valued at $15 billion; Sandberg was a 38-year-old millionaire.Sandberg’s career has, for better và worse, leveraged her usefulness lớn men inattaining their ambitions for her own substantial wealth and influence. Herformer trùm, Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, praised Sandberg to Fortune for the ways she “made my job easier, và it also made me perkhung better.”(Three years earlier, Summers suggested there is a biological basis foremployment discrimination based on sex & race—there is not.)

Once we were supposedto lớn celebrate Sheryl Sandberg simply for having a job at one of the mostpowerful companies in the world, even if the public-facing side of that jobincluded repeatedly playing cleanup. Facebook understood this, too. Herprowess in networking women, wrote Kate Losse, an early Facebook employee andauthor of the 2012 book about those years there, The Boy Kings, was seen as an “important asset” khổng lồ the business. Itcould counteract its image as an “unabashed boys club” và help position it as innovative & forward-thinking. “From my position sitting next toSandberg,” Losse wrote, “I was able to watch as Sandberg’sreputation beyond the Valley gathered momentum và Facebook began khổng lồ benefitfrom her public protệp tin as well as her internal leadership.” That has alwaysbeen the two-pronged power of Sheryl Sandberg’s own womanhood: She has used itto position her success in a sexist industry as a feminist victory, & in turnshe has used that to lớn insulate her andFacebook from culpability.

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I saw the images ofwomen in the Capitol mob circulate on social media: the women who posed in frontof its columns while others were crushed around them; the mother of the Zip Tie Guy who stood with hyên at the Capitol & later tolda reporter, through tears, “I’d rather die as a 57-year-old woman than liveunder oppression. I’d rather die và would rather fight.” Then there’s AshliBabbitt, the 35-year-old owner of a San Diego pool cleaning business who Capitol police shot and killed as shetried lớn force her way inkhổng lồ the Speaker’s lobby. Women served all kinds ofroles in driving that mob on toward attempted murder: They took care of theirsons, and they were on the front lines. They organized caravans of protesters on Facebook.Then they went on Facebook live khổng lồ defkết thúc their actionsin the mob.

Sandberg can’t getbaông xã the social capital her experience and brvà extended to Facebook—it’s toolate, and it’s far from important now. But she can refuse to make the work ofviolent trắng supremacists—who are organizing themselves across the country; who seek to undermine our democratic institutions through disinformation,terror, and lethal force—any easier. She can own the power she has. She canstop lying. She can divest her Facebook fortune. At the very least, she canresign.

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Melissa Gira Grant is a staff writer at The New Republic và the author of Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work.

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