Meta's Sheryl Sandberg accused of helping bury news on ex-boyfriend, Activision's CEO: WSJ

Mr Bobby Kotick told people that Ms Sheryl Sandberg threatened the Daily Mail in 2016. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Ms Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta Platforms, 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 chief executive officer Bobby Kotick, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Ms Sandberg reportedly contacted the digital version of the United Kingdom newspaper the Daily Mail in 2016 and in 2019 because the news organisation was reporting on a story that would have unveiled a temporary restraining order against the CEO of the video games publisher, Mr 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 Ms Sandberg directly cited Facebook in her communications with the Mail, the Journal said Mr Kotick told people that Ms Sandberg threatened the Mail in 2016 by saying that if such an article were published, it could damage the news organisation'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 spokesman for Meta said, regarding the Journal's reporting.

Ms Sandberg and Mr 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.

Ms 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 Ms 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 Mr 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 Mr Kotick's restraining order. Meta denied that Ms Sandberg committed any wrongdoing.

Mr 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 Mr Kotick covered up or ignored workplace harassment.

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