There was a time when Sheryl Sandersberg could do no wrong. The chief operating officer of Facebook — or rather ‘Meta’, as it’s now been renamed — was once the poster-girl of the modern successful woman. She was a talented, glamorous, and happy woman who had succeeded in Silicon Valley’s male-dominated Silicon Valley.

Her best-selling book Lean In is a call to confidence for women all over the world. She was a leader everyone wanted to follow. I can recall seeing it every day on my commute to work for months after it was published. She was a true messiah, inspiring women to strive higher and try harder.

It seems that the halo is beginning to slip.

Facebook has been under fire for its approach to online abuse, threats, safety, security, and censorship in recent months. It’s been dragged in to various ignoble scandals. It is becoming less of a point to brag about being second in command.

Mark Zuckerberg is beginning to look more like a bogeyman than a quirky college kid who struck gold with an idea that connected people.

Dr Max Pemberton said Facebook isn't the only platform that is barely monitored and dangerous both in terms of bullying and adult grooming (file image)

Dr Max Pemberton said Facebook isn’t the only platform that is barely monitored and dangerous both in terms of bullying and adult grooming (file image)

Sandberg was bound to be involved in all of this. Last week, an anonymous whistleblower claimed Sandberg gave ‘constant’ reminders to staff to think about profits as they tried to tackle toxic content. According to the source, Sandberg helped to create a culture that encouraged managers to use this approach even when dealing with child sexual abuse.

This really doesn’t look good. She’s coming across as just another unpleasant, uncaring corporate fat cat.

Lean in? You can feel people actively leaning in. Last week another whistleblower, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who released tens of thousands of damaging documents about the media giant’s inner workings, told MPs that Zuckerberg ‘has unilateral control over three billion people’ due to his unassailable position at the top of the company.

She went on to call for urgent external regulation to rein in the tech firm’s management and reduce the harm being done to society.

This seems to have been a long time coming. The fact that a company — and one that makes billions each year — can operate with such pathetically scant regulation just beggars belief, especially when you think of the tremendous harm it can do, especially to young people.

It doesn’t make sense, especially considering the strict safety and health regulations that regulate most aspects of life, especially for children.

Schools, councils, shops, clubs and organisations are bowed down by regulation and red tape to ensure children’s safety. Take your child on a school excursion these days. Some schools have even banned children from playing conkers in the playground, for goodness’ sake. Yet they are allowed to roam free on websites that mean they can chat to all sorts of people from bullying peers to predatory paedophiles — how on earth has this situation been allowed to develop?

Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) said the law needs to be far more robust to ensure companies take responsibility for the safety of their users

Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) said the law needs to be far more robust to ensure companies take responsibility for the safety of their users

We know this is a problem — it’s the reason there’s such a hoo-ha surrounding the Facebook whistleblowers — but we must remember it’s not just Facebook.

While adults worry about the site, the children have moved on.

In fact, the newest generation has never been on Facebook.

Most young people I have spoken to only have an email account to stay in touch. They certainly don’t interact with one another on there. It’s considered a platform for oldies.

Scientists have developed a five-minute test that will, they claim, predict your risk of getting Alzheimer’s in up to 15 years’ time. The company is starting an NHS trial shortly, but you can count on me. I can’t think of anything worse than knowing you are at risk of developing something for which there is no cure. 

That’s not to say Facebook doesn’t have its problems — it certainly does. And of course, it’s also responsible for other sites such as Instagram and WhatsApp, which certainly have more traction with the younger generation. There are many other platforms, chat services, and forums that are much more popular these days.

It can be difficult to keep up with all the happenings. These sites are often not visible to parents or politicians. Talk to teenagers about Snapchat, TikTok or Discord. They will also mention GroupMe, Whisper, Yik Yak, Discord, GroupMe, Whisper and GroupMe. Many of these sites are not monitored and can be dangerous for bullying or adult grooming.

So what’s the answer? Yes, let’s put regulations and controls in place. And sure, let’s hold Facebook to account. But don’t forget there’s plenty more that adults don’t know about. The law needs to be far more robust to ensure companies take responsibility for the safety of their users, in the same way we’d expect any other firm or organisation that operates in a physical space to.

But also it comes down to parents — just as you would expect to know where your child is and who they are with when they leave the house, so should you expect the same transparency when it comes to the digital world. Because, it turns out, it’s far more dangerous than many of us want to admit.

Adele offers group therapy

Dr Max said the entire audience was in tears when he attended an Adele (pictured) concert a few years ago

Dr Max stated that the entire audience was in tears at his recent Adele (pictured), concert.

Adele has done it again. Her new single Easy On Me has soared straight to number one and this weekend tickets for next summer’s Hyde Park concerts sold out in five minutes. This woman really knows how to tug at the heart strings, doesn’t she? I think her genius — and wild popularity — lies in the fact she manages to gently articulate feelings many of us struggle to even acknowledge, let alone understand.

I can remember going to an Adele show a few years back. I wasn’t a fan at that point, but she totally won me over. What struck me was how the entire audience — and I mean everyone — was in tears. It was like a huge group therapy exercise. I’d never seen anything like it and it helped me understand her mass appeal. She offers a safe and contained environment for us to explore our most painful feelings. A class act.

  • A general who led the Royal Marines’ invasion of Iraq has been appointed to lead the biggest shake-up of NHS management in 40 years. Sir Gordon Messenger has been asked to stamp out ‘waste and wokery’ and ensure that ‘every pound is well spent’. Thank goodness. Anyone can do it.

The military could teach the NHS so much. Isn’t it telling that when we need something done and done properly, we don’t look to NHS management for the answer, but the military?

The Army was the only one who could get things running when the PPE scandal was unfolding. The same goes for testing centres. In episodes like these you realise how much time is wasted and resources squandered in the health service by people always feeling they need to give their two pennies’ worth.

Many NHS staff could benefit from some military discipline.



Dr Max prescribes…

cashmere socks

I’m a great believer in the mental boost we get from treating ourselves to small luxuries every now and then. What could be more luxurious than fine-knit cashmere sweaters as the cold season approaches? Since the pandemic, I’ve been trying to support British manufacturing so I particularly like these from Pantherella, which are made in Leicester.