In February 2022, Nick Clegg was promoted to president of global affairs at Meta, putting him in charge of “all policy matters” for the company’s products. The promotion — Clegg was previously vice president of global affairs and communications — means Clegg will be responsible for decisions that impact users of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and Oculus worldwide.
In the U.K., Clegg, deputy prime minister in the country’s first coalition government since the Second World War, symbolizes uncomfortable compromise and political expediency. He joined Facebook in 2018, in the wake of major political and moral reckonings, after the company was accused of failing to act to prevent hate speech proliferating in Myanmar, leading to a genocide of Rohingya Muslims, and of a series of election interference scandals. Clegg was a leading figure in the 2020 establishment of Facebook’s Oversight Board, a third-party panel of civil society leaders that acts as a court of appeal for Facebook’s moderation decisions.
Clegg’s expanded role puts some of Meta’s most challenging decisions on his desk. In the coming months, there are elections in the Philippines and Brazil, two countries where social media misinformation is a major political concern, and there is a pressing need to define rules and norms for the metaverse. The question, according to Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director who was in charge of global election operations for a decade, is whether Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and COO, Sheryl Sandberg, will really empower Clegg to make the hard decisions. “Are [senior leadership] really going to let him do what he needs to do, or are they still going to be in the middle of these decisions?” Harbath said. Recent reporting, including by Bloomberg, shows Clegg was central to Facebook’s decision to take a hard-line stance against Russian authorities after the invasion of Ukraine, precipitating an all-out ban of Facebook and Instagram in Russia. Harbath reads the crisis as a signal that Clegg is being empowered, for now, to shape major policy decisions. “It’s not just ceremonial services,” she said.