Amid senate hearings, personal data scandals, fake news controversies and revelations regarding advertisements targeting the US presidential election, you could be forgiven for forgetting Facebook’s original purpose as a basic social-networking website.
Yet despite the past year’s seemingly endless public relations crises, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg’s California-based virtual empire is today valued at over $500 billion. As of the second quarter of 2018, Facebook is home to 2.23 billion monthly active users, almost one-third of the world’s population.
Social media platforms including WhatsApp, Instagram and face-tracking app Masquerade are also under Facebook ownership.
Ranked in 2016 as the 10th most powerful person in the world by Forbes, Zuckerberg, 34, has seen his self-made wealth and influence soar as Facebook’s value has rapidly increased since its initial NASDAQ listing in 2012.
Zuckerberg’s continuing influence over Facebook since its inception has seen the Westchester County-born technology entrepreneur at the center of recent controversies.
In recent months, the fight against fake news while ensuring freedom of speech on the social media platform has become the focus of considerable media attention.
Zuckerberg caused a storm in July when he stated that Facebook would not seek to remove Holocaust denial content on the platform. In August, Zuckerberg was personally involved in the decision to ban Alex Jones’s Infowars account from Facebook – other major social platforms quickly followed suit.
Sandberg, formerly responsible for the major growth of Google’s online advertising sales, assumed the position of Facebook COO in March 2008.
Later to become the first woman on Facebook’s board of directors in 2012, Sandberg is credited with transforming Facebook from a non-corporate social-networking site into an extraordinarily profitable multibillion-dollar business.
Sandberg has primarily been working hard behind the scenes to return public trust to Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica controversy, granting only one interview to CNBC on the matter, where she apologized for the “huge breach of trust” that “let so many people down.” Keeping her distance from the press has left Zuckerberg to take most of the public relations flak.
Unlike Zuckerberg, Sandberg has not shied away from politics during her time at Facebook. A former chief of staff for former US president Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary Larry Summers, Sandberg endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and she was even tipped for a senior post in a possible Clinton administration.
Sandberg’s political ambitions may explain her lack of public appearances during the recent data scandal.
Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s wealth and influence extend beyond the social media world, with both contributing widely to philanthropic causes.
Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have signed “The Giving Pledge” and promised to donate 99% of their Facebook stake during their lifetime into the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, focusing on education and opportunity.
Sandberg established the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, remembering her late husband, in November 2016. The foundation seeks to advance opportunities for women and assist individuals facing adversity, trauma and hardship in life through shared experiences and support.