Whether you’re disappointed at Nick Clegg for going to work for Facebook, or disappointed at Facebook for hiring Nick Clegg, most of us would agree that the move was unexpected. He has been hired to head Facebook’s global affairs and communications team. At a time where Facebook has been under scrutiny for the site’s over-involvement in politics, it’s certainly a bold decision to take on a politician with outspoken views and clear political goals.
However, some would argue that it makes sense for a man of his experience to join one of America’s tech giants. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force earlier this year, companies such as Facebook are in desperate need of lobbyists who understand European legislation – an area in which Nick Clegg is confident, having been a Member of the European Parliament in 2004.
Since being in office with David Cameron back in 2015, Clegg has spent a large part of his time working on his non-for-profit, Open Reason. The company aims to support liberal causes through discussion and debate, with one of its key focus areas being the AI/tech revolution. This goes some way in starting to make a little more sense of what seems at first sight, a drastic career change.
Perhaps more relevant though, is his recent work campaigning for a ‘soft’ Brexit or indeed no Brexit at all, with Clegg appearing at the People’s Vote march in London only a couple of weeks ago. Many fellow remainers naturally believe that this is the worst possible time for him to leave politics.
And maybe they are right. You might expect that the author of ‘How to Stop Brexit’ would be sticking around for the final crucial months of negotiations or would perhaps be seeking a role in the House of Lords, where he could claw back some of the political influence he once held. But Clegg is adamant that the power of deciding the UK’s future is no longer in the hands of the ‘political past’ which he considers himself to belong to.
In an interview with the BBC, Clegg stated that he was ‘struck by their recognition that the company now carries wider responsibilities, not just to the users of their apps and products but also to society as a whole’. Here he is referring to conversations he had with Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, both of whom were said to be personally involved with his appointment.
However, there are fears that despite his best efforts, Nick Clegg may be unable to reverse the ever-deteriorating public opinion of Facebook. It’s no longer surprising, but assumed, that companies such as Facebook aren’t paying their fair share of tax. This is a situation Nick Clegg may hope to rectify if he has any hope of regaining his popularity.
Only time will tell whether Nick Clegg will make a real impact from his shiny new office in Silicon Valley, but one thing is for certain – now likely earning a few million dollars per year, he won’t be coming back to British politics any time soon.