Facebook has hired former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as its head of global affairs and communications.
His appointment comes as the social media giant deals with the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and alleged data breaches.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg are understood to have spent a lot of time with Nick Clegg in the build-up to him taking on the role.
In a Facebook post, Clegg described it as an “exciting new adventure for me” after almost 20 years in European and British politics.
“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.
“I believe that Facebook must continue to play a role in finding answers to those questions – not by acting alone in Silicon Valley, but by working with people, organisations, governments and regulators around the world to ensure that technology is a force for good.”
Sandberg said Clegg was a “thoughtful and gifted leader who has served as a Member of the European Parliament, a British MP and Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, and understands deeply the responsibilities we have to people who use our service around the world”.
Over the past year, Clegg has repeatedly taken shots at the press for its coverage of Facebook and other major tech firms.
In a 2017 column for inews, he wrote: “Other critics of Silicon Valley are just plain disingenuous: traditional newspaper groups vilify social media companies for scooping up the lion’s share of advertising revenue.
“What do they expect? Social media companies – notwithstanding their occasionally pious New Age slogans – are profit-making companies, not charities.
“There’s something faintly absurd about old predatory crocodiles like Rupert Murdoch, who has spent a lifetime remorselessly suffocating lesser rivals, whingeing plaintively about how beastly the new kids on the block are to him.”
Campaign Live reported Clegg told last year’s Adtech London event that print media had “an ulterior motive to discredit social media because of its success in attracting online advertising revenues that otherwise might be spent on newspapers”.
Press Gazette asked Facebook if Clegg still held those views on the media, but did not receive a response.
Starting next Monday, Clegg will replace Elliot Schrage, who is staying on as an adviser after ten years in the head of global affairs job.
Clegg lost his seat in the House of Commons at the last general election, having served in the coalition government from 2010 to 2015.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay