By Carlo Versano
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should relieve himself of his chairman role, media critic Margaret Sullivan told Cheddar Tuesday.
Sullivan wrote this week that after more of the company's misdeeds have surfaced publicly, the founder and CEO is "in over his head" and should at the very least appoint a new board chairman who can check his worst impulses.
"I don't think he's shown the kind of visionary or capable leadership" that Facebook needs to reform itself as it faces mounting questions over what role it should play in society ー and whether it's doing more harm than good.
Existential questions like these are beginning to circulate as the world's largest social network finds itself in yet another state of crisis. The latest PR disaster follows revelations last week about a "delay, deny, deflect" strategy the company reportedly used in response to mass manipulation of the platform by bad actors.
That follows other scandals relating to Facebook's data-collection and privacy policies that forced out several high-profile executives over the past year, and left CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to manage a growing sense inside the company that it is under siege from lawmakers, investors, users ー even the advertisers that it exists to serve.
Author and critic Jessa Crispin said Facebook ($FB) has consistently shown over the last year that regulators need to step in. "I think Facebook has proven that it's incapable of regulating itself," she told Cheddar. "It's not going to volunteer."
"This is not a company that is interested in being responsible for its own actions," Crispin said.
But regulation is a slippery slope, as Sullivan noted. Some have argued the case that Facebook is a modern-day monopoly ー the Standard Oil of the 21st century ー and needs to be broken up. But because Facebook is essentially a media company ー deny that as it might ー Sullivan said government regulation is going to bump up against free speech issues, which should be "troubling" in any democracy. Instead, she advocates for a system of checks and balances and some much-needed oversight.
Needless to say, that theory is rejected by the company. Recent reports indicate that Zuckerberg sees Facebook's woes as a PR problem that needs to be solved, rather than a wholesale recasting of its mission or business model, which, according to Crispin, has led to a "toxic atmosphere inside the company."
Crispin recently wrote a scathing critique of Sheryl Sandberg after the Times revealed the extent of her involvement quelling early concerns related to Russian propaganda campaigns spreading on Facebook ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"From her position of power, Sandberg intimidated her employees into silence and wasn’t transparent with users about Russia’s part in the election of Trump, used her influence with politicians on both side of the aisle to avoid any much-needed regulation and oversight by the government, and slandered her critics as anti-Semites," Crispin wrote in The Guardian.
She expanded in an interview on Cheddar, saying Sandberg's role as an icon of corporate feminism has allowed her to largely skate, when she should be held accountable for the problems at the company ー just as a man in her position would be.
That said, the buck stops with Zuckerberg, who is one of the most powerful CEOs in corporate America, and built Facebook in his image.
"This is his company," Crispin said.