Zuckerberg has found a new “Fire Captain” for Meta. On February 16, Mark Zuckerberg reportedly promoted Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs and communications at Meta(Facebook), to the president of international affairs, responsible for Meta’s interactions with governments, foreign product publicity, and other policy matters.
Zuckerberg said: “We need a senior leader on the same level as me and Sandberg (Sheryl Sandberg) who can lead and represent us on all policy issues around the world.” Zuckerberg has previously said, I don’t care about politics. But over the years, Meta has frequently drawn criticism from the outside world for regulation and political advertising issues. In March 2018, after Facebook’s “Cambridge Privacy Gate” broke out, the controversy reached its peak.
In the No. 1 position, Zuckerberg had to find time to address these issues-five days after the news broke. He issued a statement and apologized; in April, he appeared before Congress for the first time to answer Facebook’s questions directly. How to mediate with politicians, how to keep a smile in public before, how to take the initiative to keep in close contact with Trump’s son-in-law Kushner and other politicians. These have all become things Xiao Zha needs to learn in his busy schedule. New subject. In October of that year, Zuckerberg, who had no skills, found Clegg, who had served as the British Deputy Prime Minister for five years, and believed that his experience as a member of the European Union would greatly help Facebook. Elliot Schrage, vice president of global affairs and communications, left in April. It is reported that Clegg’s annual salary is as high as 4 million pounds.
After Clegg took office, he received many questions for Zuckerberg. For example, in May 2019, when a former Facebook employee proposed that Facebook should be split, Clegg responded: “Facebook admits, With success comes responsibility. But you can’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.” In 2020, Clegg brought in his friend, former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as a co-founder of Facebook Chairman. In 2021, Facebook’s censorship and banning of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were also inseparable from Clegg’s promotion.
Right now, the criticism against Meta is still ongoing, and the situation is even worse than when Clegg first took office:
- Meta’s metaverse map has not yet yielded results.
- Its internal growth is weak.
- It faces external threats from its competitor TikTok.
Antitrust investigation. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) entry into force makes it more likely that Meta will be forced to stop its services in Europe. Based on the above predicaments, after Meta’s new quarterly earnings report, Meta suffered the most significant stock price plunge in history. Its market value has dropped by more than 400 billion U.S. dollars from its peak six months ago. Zuckerberg may need someone more than ever to put out backyard fires so he can free himself from tedious policy matters and spend more time building the Metaverse. After this appointment adjustment, Clegg will bypass Sandberg and report directly to Zuckerberg. Can he save Meta from fire and water as Xiao Zha wishes?
01. Meta is currently experiencing regulatory dilemmas around the world.
In its recent annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Meta warned the European Union that “GDPR would impede the transfer of users’ data back to U.S. servers, and companies are likely to pull Facebook and Instagram out of Europe. As a result.” GDPR is a new data protection law being implemented in the European Union. According to its regulations, companies collecting user data within the European Union must store and process the data on servers in Europe, and data sharing with the United States is prohibited.
As soon as Meta’s warning came out, it was immediately criticized by the German economy minister and the French finance minister. Meta shortly announced that the company had no intention or planned to withdraw from Europe. After all, according to Meta’s latest fourth-quarter financial report, the revenue share in Europe has reached 24.64%, which is the second-largest revenue growth point outside the United States. Zuckerberg’s attempt to compete with the E.U.’s new policy and reach a compromise by kidnapping user needs has temporarily failed.
Outside the E.U., the U.S. mainland is also not quiet. In June 2021, Facebook was again subject to an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. However, the loss of the case aroused some people’s enthusiasm in the United States to condemn Facebook. In January, a coalition of 48 U.S. states appealed again to break up the behemoth Meta. During the development of Meta, the pressure from supervision has always been accompanied. Zuckerberg’s first public apology came in 2006 after Facebook’s “News Feed” was accused of potentially tracking user data. Zuckerberg repeated similar dramas in the years that followed, apologizing for frequent privacy violations. The most severe privacy breach crisis was the “Cambridge Gate” that broke out in 2018. Cambridge Analytica illegally grabbed the data of 50 million Facebook users and used the data to predict their political leanings and target political ads. Decisions such as Trump’s election and Brexit have all been accused of being manipulated.
The crusade was louder and louder, and Zuckerberg had to attend a subpoena to the U.S. Congress and accept a 10-hour questioning on the 50 million user data breach. The turmoil ended with Facebook being fined $5 billion by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. But in fact, the privacy controversy surrounding Facebook has never subsided, and regulation has always been there. The agencies and countries that have asked Facebook to respond are the Irish Data Protection Commission, the Belgian Data Protection Authority, and more. Facebook and Zuckerberg himself were caught in the whirlpool of public opinion. Zuckerberg has up to 60% of the voting rights on Facebook, and he is also the chairman and CEO of the board of directors. He is often criticized for his style of making decisions over the board and firing employees at will. The story of Eduardo Saverin, who betrayed his first investor in the early days of his venture to raise money, has made his character controversial. In an interview with The New Yorker, Zuckerberg liked Augustus most in ancient Roman history because he eliminated political opponents, executed disobedient descendants, and maintained world peace for two hundred years. Zuckerberg was convinced that for this, “(Peace) is not free, and he has to do something.” Perhaps in Zuckerberg’s view, these disputes and dilemmas are one of the prices that must pay on the road to success.
02. Before Clegg, Sandberg, the second-in-command, was in charge of global policy at Meta.
Zuckerberg has always been accustomed to being a hands-off in areas he is not interested in, such as advertising and policy business. Sandberg is responsible for these businesses’ marketing, public relations, and regulatory responses. And the reason why he is not interested, Zuckerberg explained: “I am not a sick person, and if I say the wrong thing, the cost is very high.” In 2007, U.S. federal government officials questioned that Facebook’s data collection would cause harm to users. Zuckerberg spent much time finding the right people. At a banquet, he met Sandberg, who happened to be good at management chores he hated, and the two hit it off.
More importantly, Sandberg has the political experience Zuckerberg values, and he needs that political connection. “Facebook is more of a government than a traditional company in many ways. We have a huge user community, far more than any other high-tech company. We’re making policy (services).” Zuckerberg said.
Since joining Facebook in 2008, Sandberg has carried many things. In her second year in office, the advertising model she established brought Facebook $550 million in revenue, an increase of 70% over the previous year; she accompanied Obama to discuss economic issues on behalf of Facebook.
The time when Sandberg encountered Waterloo was also 2018. Her proud advertising system helped the Trump team’s advertising spend less than one-eighth of Hillary’s, which was mocked by Apple CEO Cook, “If we treat users as products, we can make much money. Money, but we don’t do that.” To make matters worse, in November of that year, Sandberg hired Definers, a public relations firm, to whitewash Facebook on the one hand and throw dirty water on Soros, who made negative comments about Facebook on the other. When the outside world denounced Sandberg and thought should be replaced. Zuckerberg came out to save the siege, “Sheryl is an essential part of this company. She has spent much energy dealing with the problems we are facing. She is my past ten. An important partner for many years, I am proud of the success we have accomplished together, and I hope we will continue to work together for decades to come.”
Under Zuckerberg’s protection, Sandberg continued to run on the front line of Facebook’s scandal. In 2019, she built a policy and content team of more than 30,000 people; she stood for Facebook on the European Commission’s privacy protection law; she published many positive Facebook stories on media sites in various countries. She has won much goodwill because of the series of speeches she planned. But despite this, Zuckerberg was eventually forced to appear for ten hours of congressional questioning because of Sandberg’s dereliction of duty. One must face reality: Sandberg’s influence in Washington politics is declining. Zuckerberg must find another person to deal with this “wartime crisis” so that he can open up new frontiers in the Metaverse.
03. The newly appointed “Fire Captain” Clegg helped Zuckerberg share many worries in foreign policy.
In the face of outsiders’ accusations of Zuckerberg’s remarks, in May 2020, Clegg pushed for establishing a content oversight committee, an organization that can overturn Zuckerberg’s decisions on content. Clegg said the committee’s credibility would gain more recognition overtime in an interview. But Meta clearly faces more challenging problems than policy. In October 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta, announcing its bet on the Metaverse. This move was interpreted by The Washington Post as: responding to antitrust pressure and getting rid of the negative impression of privacy leaking to the public.
Although Zuckerberg previously predicted that “for at least the next three years, Meta’s metaverse business will require long-term capital investment, and the possibility of profitability is very slight.” However, the negative market sentiment is still directly projected in the data. According to Meta’s 2021 financial report, Reality Labs, founded based on the Metaverse, lost $10.1 billion annually. On the other hand, Meta growth has also peaked. Compared to the third and fourth quarters of 2021, Facebook’s daily active user growth has stagnated, the first time this has happened in its 18-year history. Affected by this, the second day after issuing the new financial report, Meta’s share price fell 26.39% from the previous day, and the cumulative market value fell to $661.4 billion. It was the most significant single-day loss in U.S. listed company history.
While Meta was plagued with problems, rival TikTok reached 1 billion monthly active users, Facebook took eight years to go, and TikTok took only four years. In Meta’s new quarterly earnings report, the number of mentions of TikTok soared to 6 times, exceeding the two times in the previous quarterly report. Zuckerberg said frankly: “TikTok is a formidable opponent.” In 2022, Meta’s historical problems caused by user privacy still exist. In January, Meta was hit with a £2.3 billion class-action lawsuit in the U.K. for making billions of dollars from Facebook demanding personal data from 44 million users between 2015 and 2019; in February, Meta agreed to pay $90 million to settle a 2012 settlement a lawsuit in 2008. The reason is that in 2012, Facebook was accused of tracking users even after they signed out. After years of tug of war, the settlement was submitted to the U.S. court in California on February 13, local time.
But more flames surrounding Meta and Zuckerberg are still waiting for Clegg to wipe them out.