Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: The Social Network Is a Force for Good

At the Paley Center, the COO made the company sound like a digital utopia

Facebook is a technology business, but during an interview Friday at the Paley Center, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg made it sound like a digital utopia.

From the Arab Spring to organ donations, Sandberg said Facebook is bringing about social and political change with the click of the “Like” tab.

“This is about engagement. This is about giving people an authentic voice and what happens as a result,” Sandberg said.

The social discovery that Facebook and its web of friends, family and lesser acquaintances makes possible was in evidence in the political revolutions that sprung up across the Middle East in recent months, Sandberg told moderator Pat Mitchell, Paley's President and CEO. 

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Though Sandberg said Facebook shouldn’t take too much credit for the unrest — “we didn’t march in the streets,” she noted — the tech executive said that the platform played a key role in pushing demonstrators out of the closet and into Tahrir Square.

In particular, Sandberg argued that Facebook allowed people in Egypt to realize that their distaste for strongman Hosni Mubarak was shared by others in their social spheres.

Domestically, Sandberg said Facebook will play an even bigger role in the 2012 elections than it did in the last presidential race.

In 2008, Sandberg said there were roughly 34 to 36 million connected users and today that number stands at 170 million. Add to that growth spurt, studies by the likes of Pew that demonstrate that people are 57 percent more likely to attend a political rally if they see their friends are going, and there is real potential for get out the vote efforts.

To Sandberg, even the sickly economy could benefit from a little Facebook balm. She said that in the down times, job seekers have used the platform to find their next gig. Facebook, Sandberg said, has helped users find roughly 250,000 jobs.

“The unemployment rate in this country is way to high. This is a crisis for us in the United State and we feel really fortunate that we’re able to help at all,” Sandberg said.

Next step for Facebook: sticking a fork in world hunger … oh, and making a killing when it likely goes public in 2012.