- Former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is to join Facebook as its most senior communications executive.
- Clegg was reportedly wooed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for months, and was promised an influential role in shaping the company’s future direction.
- Clegg’s political experience in Europe will prove useful as Facebook tries to navigate a variety of global issues such as election interference and fake news.
- Clegg was previously MP for Sheffield Hallam and his predecessor in that seat, Richard Allan, also works at Facebook as a lobbyist.
Facebook has hired the UK’s former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to head up its global communications team, in a move that has sent shockwaves through the British political establishment.
The Financial Times first reported that Clegg will become VP of global affairs and communications, and the hire has been confirmed by Facebook, Nick Clegg, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Clegg will take over the role from Elliot Schrage, who originally announced his departure from Facebook in June, but plans to stay at the company as an adviser.
Business Insider understands that Clegg will be reporting to Sandberg. Both she and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg have been wooing the ex-politician since this summer and promised that he would be influential in shaping the company’s future direction.
In a Facebook post confirming the move, Clegg wrote: “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.”
Sandberg wrote on Facebook: “[Nick Clegg] is 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.”
Clegg may prove to be a useful outsider
The 51-year-old former Liberal Democrat party leader will officially start the job next Monday, and will move to Silicon Valley in January next year.
As a former member of the European Parliament, Clegg may prove most useful in Brussels, where Facebook is at risk of fines and regulation.
He may also help Facebook navigate its political problems around the globe, from tackling election meddling ahead of the US midterms, to the fallout from Cambridge Analytica, to mass misinformation campaigns being waged on WhatsApp. The thinking is that, as a complete outsider to Silicon Valley, Clegg might challenge Facebook to approach its problems more laterally.
It is a major senior hire for Facebook and an unusual move for a CEO who maintains a tight inner circle. As the Financial Times noted, Facebook has lost two high-flying comms execs over the last year: Schrage, and Rachel Whetstone, who left for Netflix in August. Like Clegg, Whetstone has deep ties to the UK political establishment especially, at one time, to former prime minister David Cameron.
A former political heavyweight
It isn’t clear how much Clegg will earn in his new role, but it will doubtless be considerably more than the humble £134,565 ($US175,227) he was entitled to as deputy prime minister.
Clegg was once one of the most senior politicians in the UK. He became deputy prime minister in 2010 after the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Conservatives under David Cameron. He lost the position after the Conservatives won a majority in 2015, but retained his seat as MP for Sheffield Hallam until 2017.
His predecessor in that seat happens to be another politician who went to work for Facebook – Liberal Democrat peer Richard Hallam. Hallam works as Facebook’s main lobbyist inside Europe.
It also appears that Clegg has been auditioning for the job for some time. In September 2017, he wrote an op-ed for The i newspaper titled “In defence of Facebook and the Silicon Valley tech giants,” arguing:
“I know Mark Zuckerberg et al are regularly criticised for not doing enough to stop fake news and extremism, and doing too much to mine our data for the benefit of advertisers, but a threat to the continued existence of humankind? Hardly.”
You can read Nick Clegg and Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook posts here:
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