Facebook Investigates Whether Sandberg Tried to Block Article

Executive formed team to stop news site from running story about her boyfriend
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2022 5:10 PM CDT
Sandberg Faces Meta Review Over Attempt to Block Article
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard Inc., arrives at the Allen & Co. media summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file)

Facebook is looking into whether Sheryl Sandberg violated company rules by pressuring a news site to spike an article on her boyfriend, possibly involving her employees in the effort. Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Meta, contacted the website edition of the Daily Mail, a UK tabloid, in 2016 and 2019 about a temporary restraining order that had been granted against Bobby Kotick in 2014. Sandberg, whose nonprofit LeanIn.org advocates for women in the workplace, was concerned that the revelation would hurt her image, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sandberg dated Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, from 2016 to 2019. Her effort against publication of the story involved employees of Facebook and Activision, as well as outside advisers and lawyers, per the Journal. The restraining order was obtained by a former girlfriend of Kotick's who said he harassed her at her home. The order was dropped a few weeks later after the woman apparently said some of her allegations were exaggerated or false. Sandberg told the Daily Mail in 2016 and 2019 that the woman had withdrawn her accusations.

One issue is whether Sandberg's communications with the Daily Mail appeared to be threatening. Colleagues doubted that Sandberg would threaten anyone directly, though they acknowledged that a call from the boss at Facebook could be received that way. The story never ran. Kotick told the Journal that was because the account wasn't true, and his girlfriend confirmed that to the Guardian. A spokeswoman for Meta, whose investigation was sparked by coverage late last year and isn't finished, said, "Sheryl Sandberg never threatened the MailOnline's business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision." (More Sheryl Sandberg stories.)

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