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Sheryl Sandberg accused of burying articles on Activision CEO and former boyfriend Bobby Kotick, report says

April 21, 2022, 8:16 PM UTC
Updated April 21, 2022, 8:19 PM UTC

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta Platforms Inc., is the subject of internal scrutiny at the social media company for allegedly using her influence to quash two stories about her former boyfriend, Activision Blizzard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sandberg reportedly contacted the digital version of the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail in 2016 and in 2019 because the news organization was reporting on a story that would have unveiled a temporary restraining order against Kotick that had been obtained by a former girlfriend in 2014, according to the Journal, which cited anonymous sources. 

While there are conflicting reports about whether Sandberg directly cited Facebook in her communications with the Mail, the Journal said Kotick told people that Sandberg threatened the Mail in 2016 by saying that if such an article were published, it could damage the news organization’s business relationship with Facebook. 

“Sheryl Sandberg never threatened the MailOnline’s business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision,” Meta said in a statement. “This story attempts to make connections that don’t exist,” a spokeswoman for Meta said, regarding the Journal’s reporting. 

Sandberg and Kotick assembled a team that included Facebook and Activision employees as well as paid outside advisers, and developed a strategy to persuade the Daily Mail not to report on the restraining order on two separate occasions—first, when they began dating in 2016 and, again, around the time they were breaking up in 2019, according to the Journal. Sandberg and her advisers were worried about the articles damaging her reputation as an advocate for women, according to the Journal. 

The Journal’s reporting on Sandberg’s alleged cover-up, which started late last year, reportedly triggered Meta to begin conducting its own review of the executive’s actions to determine whether she violated the company’s rules.

The British daily’s reporting came from 2014 Los Angeles court filings that showed an ex-girlfriend of Kotick had received a temporary restraining order against the Activision CEO after alleging that he harassed her at her home, according to the Journal.

The order expired shortly after the woman obtained it. Both parties requested that the matter be removed from the court calendar just weeks after the order was originally put in place, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records cited by the Journal. The accuser later admitted that the declaration she filed for the restraining order included some allegations that were either exaggerated or untrue.

The Daily Mail never ended up publishing the story about Kotick’s restraining order. Meta denied that Sandberg committed any wrongdoing. Kotick’s reputation, however, has taken a hit as multiple lawsuits have been filed against Activision Blizzard since last summer, and allegations have emerged that Kotick covered up or ignored workplace harassment.

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