Facebook has hired former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as its new head of global affairs and communications, in a surprise move.
The former leader of the Liberal Democrats was described by the Financial Times, which broke the story, as the “most senior addition to Facebook’s tight-knit leadership team from outside the company’s own top ranks since 2014, when former PayPal president David Marcus was recruited to run Messenger.”
Clegg was a reporter at the FT earlier in his career.
In a statement on his own Facebook page, he wrote: “I am delighted to be joining Facebook. After almost twenty years in European and British politics, this is an exciting new adventure for me. Having spoken at length to Mark and Sheryl over the last few months, I have been struck by their recognition that the company is on a journey which brings new responsibilities not only to the users of Facebook’s apps but to society at large. I hope I will be able to play a role in helping to navigate that journey.
Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Oculus and Instagram are at the heart of so many people’s everyday lives – but also at the heart of some of the most complex and difficult questions we face as a society: the privacy of the individual; the integrity of our democratic process; the tensions between local cultures and the global internet; the balance between free speech and prohibited content; the power and concerns around artificial intelligence; and the wellbeing of our children.”
Clegg is a former MEP and European Commission trade negotiator who was deeply involved in “unbundling” or liberalising telecoms markets across Europe, helping enact one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed by the 1999-2004 European Parliament, that freed up formerly nationalised infrastructure.
The hire comes as Facebook has faced a string of high-profile crises and also encounters pronounced regulatory headwinds in Europe.
Clegg was reportedly wooed over a sustained period by Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg – who faces a bid by major Facebook investors to oust him, it was widely reported this week amid concern about security and compliance issues at the company.
“We need Facebook’s insular boardroom to make a serious commitment to addressing real risks — reputational, regulatory, and the risk to our democracy — that impact the company, its share owners, and ultimately the hard-earned pensions of thousands of New York City workers,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement to CNBC earlier this week. Stringer joined a previous motion by Trillium Asset Management in calling for Zuckerberg to step down.
The former head of the Liberal Democrats will move to Silicon Valley in January, the FT reported. He will succeed Elliot Schrage, who announced in June that he was leaving Facebook after a decade.
Facebook reported 1.47 billion daily users on average for June 2018 in its most recent results, an increase of 11 percent year-over-year, with advertising revenues for the quarter of $13 billion.