Facebook appoints former UK deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as global head of communications

Former UK deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has become Facebook’s head of global policy and communications.

Clegg announced on his Facebook page that he is starting the role this week and he and his family would move to Silicon Valley at the beginning of next year.

In a Facebook video, Clegg explained his reasoning for joining the company, saying it came about after conversations with founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

“It’s at the intersection between a bunch of difficult issues and questions at the frontier of politics and tech,” he said.

“In the many conversations I’ve had over the summer and the autumn with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg I’ve been really struck about how seriously they take the responsibility they take not just towards the users of Facebook and their other products but to society at large.

“I hope I will be able to help them, work into them, to navigate this onward journey as all of these difficult questions need to be grappled with.”

Clegg later elaborated on his reasons for joining Facebook in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

As vice-president of global affairs and communications at Facebook, I hope to help it navigate the numerous challenges it faces, in common with other leading tech companies, as the data-driven technological revolution continues to affect every aspect of our everyday lives: the control we have over our personal data; the integrity of our democratic process; the power and concerns about artificial intelligence; the tension between the global internet and national jurisdictions; the balance between free speech and prohibited content; and the wellbeing of our children.

Clegg’s appointment comes after a horror year for Facebook which started with revelations research firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of 87m users which was later used for disinformation campaigns during the 2016 US elections.

The fallout from the crisis saw Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spend ten hours appearing before the US Congress over the misuse of data, the rise of ‘fake news’ and the use of the platform by foreign powers to influence US elections.

In May, Zuckerberg appeared before a committee of European parliamentarians where he was warned he had created a digital monster.

Australian MPs have also made noises about summoning Zuckerberg to appear in Canberra, however Facebook locally finds itself subject to a number of government inquiries, including the ACCC’s Digital Platforms investigation, and a threatened digital platforms tax.

In June, the company started its fight back against the year’s negative publicity with its ‘together now’ campaign promoting what it does to fight misinformation and online misbehaviour.

Earlier this month, Futurebrands found in its 2018 brand sentiment index that the service fell 37 places over the past year with the brand suffering issues in the areas including trust, admiration, passion, innovation and thought leadership.

Clegg, originally a journalist with the Financial Times, became a Member of the European Parliament in 1999. He was elected to the House of Commons in 2005 and became leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrat party in 2007.

In 2010, Clegg agreed to take his party into a government coalition with the Conservative Party led by David Cameron. That decision proved disastrous for the Liberal Democrats which lost 49 seats at the 2015 UK election with Clegg being only one of 8 MPs to survive. He lost his seat to Labour in last’s year election.

One of the issues that may haunt Clegg in his new role is his previous criticism of tax avoiders, having once described them as “legal but morally unacceptable”. Facebook, like most US technology companies, has faced widespread opprobrium for its use of tax havens to avoid paying taxes in western countries.

Clegg however struck an optimistic note about his new role, concluding his Guardian piece by saying: “It is time to build bridges between politics and tech so that tech can become the servant of progress and optimism, not a source of fear and suspicion.”


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