Facebook has appointed Britain's former deputy prime minister, Sir Nick Clegg as its new global communications chief. It's a risky choice for the social media giant but one which might just pay off.
The risk: Clegg is also deeply controversial. Following the 2010 general election, Clegg's Liberal Democrats joined the Conservative-led government in a coalition. And as the much smaller party in that partnership, Clegg was forced to accept major changes to his campaign platform. Most notably, the Conservative tuition fees law which led to increasing student fees. To many Liberal Democrats (analogous to pro-market Democrats in the U.S.), this represented an unforgiveable betrayal. And since then Clegg has faced throngs of protesters outside his London home.
Still, dedicated to civil liberty issues and ardently supportive of the European Union and broader globalization, Clegg's appeal to Facebook is obvious. He brings name recognition, the acumen to navigate high-society events, and a compelling voice with which to resist the new regulatory regimes the company now faces. And that regulation issue is a huge one for Facebook. Desperate to avoid some sorts of government mandates, such as those in Germany limiting how long Facebook has to remove hateful or offensive content, Mark Zuckerberg's crew are willing to pay big sums to steer states toward only helpful or harmless regulations. But with Clegg likely on a multimillion dollar salary, the former deputy prime minister will be expected to produce quick results.
Ultimately, I'm broadly supportive of this pick. Facebook has good reason to want to avoid the innovation-hating and freedom-stifling autocrats now assembled against it. If Clegg can help defeat those interests, I welcome his appointment.