×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mark Zuckerberg Says He Has No Plans to Resign as Facebook Chairman

Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not going anywhere.

In an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday evening, the embattled Facebook chief, when asked if he would step aside as chairman, replied, “That’s not the plan.”

Critics of the social giant have stepped up calls for Zuckerberg to resign following an explosive report by the New York Times last week. The 5,300-word piece detailed Facebook’s response to scandals over misuse of its platform and data-privacy gaffes, including that it withheld knowledge of Russia’s weaponizing the platform to spread propaganda and that Facebook hired a D.C.-area political consulting firm to push negative coverage of competitors and critics.

Of course, only Zuckerberg can fire Zuckerberg. The 34-year-old tech mogul controls approximately 60% of the voting shares in the social-media giant. Corporate-governance experts say Facebook’s structure giving full power to one individual, which is uncommon, disenfranchises investors and prevents accountability to senior management.

In the CNN interview, Zuckerberg also voiced support for COO Sheryl Sandberg, who also has been implicated as a key figure in Facebook’s response (and lack of response) to the scandals. He made similar comments in a Nov. 15 call with reporters.

“Sheryl is a really important part of this company and is leading a lot of the efforts to address a lot of the biggest issues that we have,” Zuckerberg said in the interview. “She’s been an important partner for me for 10 years [and] I hope that we work together for decades more to come.”

Zuckerberg denied that Facebook failed to disclose what it knew about Russia’s coordinated attack leading up to the 2016 U.S. election, which was one of the allegations in the NYT report. In the CNN interview, he said, “it is not clear to me at all that the [Times] report is right.” The New York Times has said it stands by its reporting.

Separately Tuesday, Facebook’s longtime VP of communications and public policy, Elliot Schrage, took the blame for hiring Definers Public Affairs, according to an internal memo obtained by TechCrunch. Among other activities, Definers launched a campaign linking anti-Facebook advocacy group Freedom From Facebook to liberal billionaire George Soros, a tactic often used by anti-Semitic groups.

Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have denied having any knowledge about Facebook’s hiring Definers before the Times’ publication of the report. Schrage’s taking the fall for the Definers controversy is convenient: He’s already announced that he will leave Facebook, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data-privacy scandal. The company has recruited former U.K. deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as Schrage’s replacement.

“Responsibility for these decisions rests with leadership of the Communications team. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to manage this without controversy,” Schrage wrote in the memo. “I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms… I’m sorry I let you all down.”

In the memo, Schrage acknowledged that he directed third-party firms to instigate critical media coverage about critics and competitors — admitted that he told Definers to publicize Soros’ backing of the Freedom From Facebook coalition. But he insisted that he didn’t instruct Definers to publish false stories through affiliated news site NTK Network.

“In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling us a ‘menace to society,'” Schrage said in the memo. Definers researched the Freedom from Facebook coalition and “learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.”

Sandberg commented on Schrage’s memo, per TechCrunch, saying in part that “it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else. Being Jewish is a core part of who I am and our company stands firmly against hate. The idea that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply personal.”

On Tuesday, Freedom From Facebook said it bought a week-long ad campaign on Facebook — targeted exclusively to Facebook employees — to encourage whistle-blowers to come forward and share info of the company’s cover-ups or misdeeds. (Facebook’s PR department didn’t respond to an inquiry about the ad.) Freedom From Facebook has set up a website (at this link) for employees to submit information confidentially, as well as an encrypted email address and secure document-sharing account.

In a statement, Freedom From Facebook said it launched the campaign in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report that Zuckerberg earlier this year told employees the company is “at war” — under attack from lawmakers, investors and users — and said Facebook would not hesitate to fire staff who speak to the media.

Facebook’s nine-member board has voiced support for the two top execs. Members of the board include Zuckerberg and Sandberg themselves, as well as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

“As Mark and Sheryl made clear to Congress, the company was too slow to spot Russian interference, and too slow to take action,” Facebook’s board of directors said in the statement last week. “As a board we did indeed push them to move faster. But to suggest that they knew about Russian interference and either tried to ignore it or prevent investigations into what had happened is grossly unfair.”

More Digital

  • Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese

    Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese Video Platform Bilibili

    Alibaba has purchased an 8% stake in the Chinese online video platform Bilibili, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Bilibili is one of China’s top video streaming and entertainment platforms, with about 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page-views per day. Founded in 2009, it was listed on the NASDAQ last March. Alibaba’s [...]

  • Clevver-Logo

    Hearst Magazines Buys Clevver's Pop-Culture YouTube Channels After Defy's Demise

    Hearst Magazines has snapped up Clevver, a network of female-skewing lifestyle and pop-culture news YouTube channels that had been owned by now-defunct Defy Media. Clevver was left homeless after Defy’s sudden shutdown in November; its principals said at the time they were looking for a new home. Hearst Magazines sees a digital fit with Clevver’s [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Rhett-Link-Good-Mythical-Morning

    Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment in Talks to Acquire Smosh (EXCLUSIVE)

    Smosh, the YouTube comedy brand left stranded after parent company Defy Media went belly-up, may be about to get a new business partner. Mythical Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by top YouTube comedy duo Rhett & Link, has been in talks about acquiring the Smosh brand, sources told Variety. Multiple potential buyers came forward to [...]

  • Pokemon Go

    Proposed 'Pokémon Go' Lawsuit Settlement May Remove Poké Stops, Gyms

    A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against “Pokémon Go” developer Niantic could remove or change a number of Poké Stops and Gyms in the popular augmented reality game. The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Thursday and applies to anyone in the U.S. who owns or leases property within 100 meters [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content