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Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg Says She's Leaving the Company

Sandberg has been at Meta, formerly known as Facebook, for 14 years.

Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg at a conference
Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Getty Images

Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is leaving the social media company, she said Wednesday. 

Sandberg will continue to serve on Meta's board of directors but plans to step down from her role in the fall. 

Sandberg's departure comes after Meta, formerly known as Facebook, grappled with various scandals around privacy and misinformation. The executive, a 14-year veteran of the company, hasn't been immune from controversy and faced criticism that Facebook's executives were slow to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 US election. 

"The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn't always been easy is an understatement," Sandberg said in a Facebook post announcing her departure. "But it should be hard. The products we make have a huge impact, so we have the responsibility to build them in a way that protects privacy and keeps people safe."

Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, said Meta has also been dealing with business challenges such as a slowdown in user growth and ad revenue. In February, Facebook said its daily users dropped for the first time in the company's history, sending its stock plunging more than 26%. 

"The company needs to find a new way forward, and perhaps this was the best time for Sandberg to depart," Williamson said.

Meta in recent months has been focusing on creating the metaverse, virtual worlds where people can socialize, play and work. As part of this effort, it has been investing more heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality. Moderating offensive content such as harassment and hate speech in virtual worlds, though, will likely be tougher than on social media. 

Javier Olivan, Meta's chief growth officer, will take over as COO, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. He added, though, that the company doesn't plan to replace Sandberg's role in its existing structure because she defined the role in her own way. 

"But even if it were possible, I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products," Zuckerberg said. 

Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008, helping the social media giant grow its multibillion-dollar advertising business. She was lauded by some as a feminist icon after the 2013 publication of her best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Before joining Facebook, Sandberg was Google's vice president of global online sales and operations. She also worked as the chief of staff for former US Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers.

In 2017, she published her second book, Option B, about overcoming adversity after her husband, Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, unexpectedly died from heart problems.

Sandberg said in a Facebook post that after 14 years at the social media company, it's time for her to write her next chapter.

"I am not entirely sure what the future will bring -- I have learned no one ever is," she said. "But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women."