Former President Donald Trump has stepped up his criticism of Facebook and other tech giants since leaving office. Earlier this month, he filed separate lawsuits against Facebook (FB), Google-owned YouTube (GOOG, GOOGL) and Twitter (TWTR) for alleged censorship.
A new book, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, “draws on interviews with more than 400 people in and around Facebook to reveal how Trump’s rise and presidency have placed the tech giant under immense public scrutiny which has caused unrest among its executives.
Cecilia Kang, New York Times tech reporter and co-author of the book, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview that Trump has tested the business model and culture of the company, which she says prioritizes l ‘engagement and growth of users rather than the limits of potentially dangerous speeches.
The Trump era also sparked a rift between Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who concentrated power under himself during the difficult times, Kang said.
“Trump, in many ways, tested so many parts of the business, so many things that were already systemic and intrinsic to the business model, technology and culture,” she says.
“So once Trump came along and the controversy surfaced, and a lot of these issues and scandals surfaced, Mark Zuckerberg took a lot more control,” she says.
“When the looting begins, the shooting begins”
The challenges that coincided with Trump began with the 2016 presidential campaign, when his inflammatory rhetoric along with Russian election meddling forced Facebook to consider the consequences of content posted on the platform.
The scandals that followed include the revelation in March 2018 that data firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data from Facebook users to put together voter profiles; as well as a worker protest and ad boycott in June 2020 against Facebook’s decision to leave Trump’s message after the police murder of George Floyd in which Trump wrote: “When the looting begins, filming begins “.
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The wave of scandals took a toll on Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s professional relationship, which began at a Christmas party in 2007 that led to his hiring a year later. As public scrutiny worsened, Zuckerberg became frustrated with the negative attention and took greater control of the business, Kang says.
“It’s important to note that what we saw was that Sheryl Sandberg, who was the counterweight to some of her impulses and personality, didn’t back down as much as I think a lot of people internally did. ‘after what we heard, hoped she would, ”Kang said. .
“He had also lost some confidence in her because he was really furious that the reputation of the company was deteriorating during Trump’s day,” Kang said. “He throws the blame on her. And I would probably say unfairly, because a lot of the problems were coming from his side of the business, which was the product.”
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Kang joined The New York Times after a decade at the Washington Post, after stints with the San Jose Mercury and the Dow Jones.
The tension between Facebook and Trump reached a breaking point shortly after the insurgency on Capitol Hill on January 6, when Facebook banned Trump from the platform. The decision to suspend his account after the attack on Capitol Hill was confirmed by the company’s supervisory board in May, but Facebook was asked to reconsider its decision to ban it indefinitely within the next six months. A month later, Facebook decided to ban Trump for two years with the possibility of an extension.
Kang says the company did not take action until Jan.6, as possible Capitol Hill protesters organized on their platform.
“They just didn’t act,” Kang said. “At one point, the leadership tried to get Mark Zuckerberg to call the president, former President Trump, they decided not to because they feared it would leak to the press.”
“But that was another one of those examples where they saw the organization perform, and they were so concerned about what to do, they didn’t crack down on it.”
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