Former U.K. deputy prime minister Nick Clegg just landed a new job at Facebook where he’ll be tasked with rehabbing the company’s image after a tumultuous year, but it looks like he already has experience defending the company against its staunchest critics.
In a 2017 op-ed for British newspaper “i,” Clegg went after “disingenuous” Old Media figureheads that have crowed about Facebook’s advertising dominance. “What do they expect? Social media companies – notwithstanding their occasionally pious New Age slogans – are profit making companies, not charities,” he said, singling out one detractor in particular: Rupert Murdoch.
“There’s something faintly absurd about old predatory crocodiles like Rupert Murdoch, who has spent a lifetime remorselessly suffocating lesser rivals, whingeing plaintively about how beastly the new kids on the block are to him,” Clegg said.
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The News Corp. head honcho, of course, has been one of Facebook’s most prominent critics. Murdoch called for Facebook to start paying publishers a “carriage fee,” similar to cable TV, earlier this year. “The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services,” Murdoch said in January.
This came a year and a half after Murdoch summoned Mark Zuckerberg to his Sun Valley, Idaho villa, where he skewered the Facebook chief for “wreaking havoc” on the media industry, according to Wired. A wary Zuckerberg took the meeting seriously, because he felt Murdoch was skilled in the “dark arts,” as Wired put it, believing Murdoch was behind 49 state attorneys criticizing Facebook’s regulation of inappropriate content back in 2007.
Clegg’s op-ed, aptly titled “In defense of Facebook and the Silicon Valley tech giants,” foreshadowed the roll he’d take with the company a year later. As Facebook’s new VP of Global Affairs and Communications, he’s tasked with being the company’s voice to the outside world. This comes at a time of unprecedented scrutiny for Facebook. The company was rocked by the Cambridge Analytica data breach in March, where up to 87 million users had their profiles unwittingly accessed, and announced last week another 30 million users were vulnerable to a recent hack.
Clegg called for a “new deal” between tech giants and its users, where companies “embrace, not shun” new ways of protecting user data. “Social media has its downsides – all means of communication do – but it nonetheless enables billions of people to access information and connect with each other on a scale and at a velocity never seen before,” the ex-politician added.