Meta's Clegg promoted as Zuckerberg steps back from policy

Mr Nick Clegg's (above) elevated role means that Mr Zuckerberg and Ms Sandberg will defer to Mr Clegg more on policy decisions. PHOTO: REUTERS

MENLO PARK (BLOOMBERG) - Meta Platforms chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has promoted his top policy executive, Mr Nick Clegg, to an even greater role inside the company - a move that will mean less involvement in future policy decisions for the CEO and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Mr Clegg was already running Meta's global policy organisation, but Mr Zuckerberg said in a post Wednesday (Feb 16) that he will now "lead our company on all our policy matters", including interactions with governments and how Meta will "make the case publicly for our products and our work".

Mr Clegg, who was reporting to Ms Sandberg, is now reporting to Mr Zuckerberg too, with the new title of president for global affairs.

"We need a senior leader at the level of myself (for our products) and Sheryl (for our business) who can lead and represent us for all of our policy issues globally," Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

Mr Clegg's elevated role means that Mr Zuckerberg and Ms Sandberg will defer to Mr Clegg more on policy decisions.

Mr Zuckerberg, in particular, has spent more time in recent years on issues like content moderation and regulation than he would like, according to sources familiar with his thinking. That has included many discussions around issues like political advertising and how to handle high-profile users, like former United States president Donald Trump.

Mr Zuckerberg would rather dedicate more time to Meta's technology and products - areas where he is more experienced - including plans to build a new immersive version of the Internet known as the metaverse, say people familiar with his thinking.

Mr Clegg's promotion may also help Mr Zuckerberg avoid making public statements on day-to-day policy issues, which have not done much to improve Facebook's trust with the public. As CEO, he is still likely to be the one called before US Congress when lawmakers seek a top executive to testify.

"As Nick takes on this new leadership role, it will enable me to focus more of my energy on leading the company as we build new products for the future, and it will support Sheryl as she continues to focus on the success of our business," Mr Zuckerberg wrote. Meta shares declined 3 per cent to US$214.18 (S$287.56) at 1.47 p.m. in New York.

Mr Clegg, 55, joined Meta in late 2018 at a crucial time for the company, formerly known as Facebook. It was still reeling from the aftermath of Facebook's unexpected role in the 2016 US presidential election, and was facing increased scrutiny from politicians and regulators for data and privacy practices following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Meta is once again preparing for high-stake elections with the 2022 midterms in November. It will be the first major vote in the US since Mr Trump refused to accept his 2020 loss and pushed other Republicans to question the integrity of the results.

Meta and other social media companies will have to make tough calls about what content to take action against and what to leave alone in an election when all 435 seats in the House are up for grabs, as well as 34 of the 100 Senate seats.

As a former politician - he was deputy prime minister in the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2015 - Mr Clegg brings a new perspective to Meta's senior leadership team.

In his three years on the job, he has developed a close relationship with Mr Zuckerberg, and taken the lead on many of the company's most important decisions. He spearheaded Meta's effort to create an independent Oversight Board to help make content decisions, and also shepherded the company's process for reviewing and ultimately suspending Mr Trump's Facebook and Instagram account following the Jan 6 Capitol riots.

Now, Mr Clegg will be tasked with selling Meta's new product vision for the metaverse to regulators.

"The next few years will be a crucial time for our company and our industry as new rules for the internet are written all over the world, and as we set out on our journey to help build the metaverse," Ms Sandberg wrote in a post. "Nick's calm and principled leadership will continue to be an asset for Meta in the months and years to come."

Meta is also restructuring its public relations group following the departure of Mr John Pinette, the former vice-president of communications in early January. Mr David Ginsberg is being promoted to head of communications and public affairs.

Mr Ginsberg, who has been at Meta for almost five years, was previously running the company's choice and competition team, which focuses on building products to meet new and expected regulation, like data transfer and portability features.

That group will continue to report to Mr Ginsberg, as will a new Global Public Affairs team under Mr Tucker Bounds.

In an internal company post shared Wednesday, Mr Clegg said that Mr Ginsberg's new team will be restructured further in the future.

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