- Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP for global affairs and communications, said he wrote Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg a bruising letter before deciding to join the company.
- Clegg told the New Statesman that he called out the fact that Facebook had "sullied political and public trust" following the giant Cambridge Analytica data breach last year.
- In a separate conversation with Zuckerberg, Clegg said the Facebook CEO’s problem is that "people think you’re too powerful and you don’t care."
- Clegg is Facebook’s most significant new hire, tasked with cleaning up the company’s image to governments.
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Facebook’s global affairs chief Nick Clegg has revealed that he wrote Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg a brutal letter before joining the company last year.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Clegg cast light on the personal wrangle he went through as he considered an approach from Facebook, having previously served as Britain’s deputy prime minister.
"I’ve spent the past 20 years working and being shouted at and I don’t feel like doing that again," Clegg recalled telling Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.
When Facebook sounded out Clegg about a job, it was grappling with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other data breaches, as well as facing questions about election interference and harmful content.
Clegg, who had been critical of Facebook in the past, said he felt compelled to write a letter highlighting his concerns and explaining what he could do to help fix Facebook’s issues.
Paraphrasing the letter to the New Statesman, Clegg said he wrote:
"I don’t want to get on a plane until you understand where I’m coming from. I think it’s remarkable that you offer this ad-funded business model for free and that you’ve offered your services to Africa and South America and so on. But you know you’ve sullied political and public trust about how Facebook is a guardian of people’s data.
"Social attitudes have changed completely, as far as the holding, aggregation and storage of data is concerned. There’s a profound feeling in Europe that companies like Facebook don’t pay enough tax and that you should contrast your values much more sharply with what’s going on in China. And there needs to be an attempt at least to try to develop a more mature and open approach to regulation, to governments."
Clegg, now VP for global affairs and communications, also recalled an early conversation he had with Zuckerberg in which he said the Facebook CEO had too much power.
"Your fundamental problem is that people think you’re too powerful and you don’t care," Clegg said he told Zuckerberg during a conversation in California. According to Clegg, Zuckerberg replied: "Yes [that’s] totally understandable, I get that."
The exchange evokes arguments made by activist Facebook shareholders, who say that Zuckerberg should not be in his current position of being both Facebook chairman and CEO, and that his voting power should be diluted.
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