Former UK MP Nick Clegg Is Looking Like Mark Zuckerberg’s New Metaverse Messenger

With two C-suite executives having left Meta, Mark Zuckerberg could be looking for a new right-hand-man in Nick Clegg, especially when it comes to pushing the metaverse.

Nick Clegg speaks and waves his arm in front of a Meta logo.
Nick Clegg extolled the virtues of the metaverse in a blog post yesterday (April 13). AFP via Getty Images

Nick Clegg—Meta (META)’s president of global affairs and a former member of the U.K. parliament—appears to be the social media company’s new weapon for driving its metaverse vision forward.

The executive published a 4,500-word blog post entitled “How the Metaverse Can Transform Education” yesterday (April 12). The post appeared on both Clegg’s personal blog and Meta’s company page. As Meta’s global policy head, it is Clegg’s job to make a public case for Meta’s products, which includes the metaverse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement last year.

Clegg doesn’t often contribute to the company’s blog, having only published one other post about the metaverse last year. Zuckerberg has been the biggest driving force for Meta’s metaverse vision, but passing the baton to Clegg could mean the former politician’s “sphere of influence is increasing within (Meta),” said Ruchi Goyal, a Henley Business School lecturer who researches management teams in media companies.

Zuckerberg hired Clegg as a lobbyist and crisis communications officer in 2018. Prior to Clegg’s time at Meta, he served in the U.K. parliament for 12 years, which included roles at the leader of the Liberal Democrat party and deputy prime minister. In his five years at Meta, Clegg has fought criticisms regarding the company’s role in elections, genocide and spreading hate. The Guardian dubbed him the “fall guy for Facebook’s failures” in 2021.

He did this job well, according to Goyal. Clegg joined Meta at a time when it was in the public eye regarding ethical issues. “He comes across as a very real, believable person who apologizes when things are wrong,” she said. “Facebook isn’t necessarily associated with that image.”

As Meta faces huge losses in its metaverse technologies and widespread criticism on the company’s strategy, Zuckerberg could be relying on Clegg’s brand to change consumers’ perceptions of the metaverse, Goyal said. Given that Zuckerberg has also lost two of his C-suite executives in the last two years—chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg—he could also be looking for a new, loyal right-hand-man in Clegg, she said.

Meta’s metaverse struggles

Reality Labs, Meta’s branch focusing on metaverse and artificial intelligence technologies, lost $13.7 billion in 2022, a 35 percent increase from the year prior, according to the company’s financial documents. While Meta spent more money on Reality Labs, the unit’s revenue also fell 5 percent to $2.16 billion year-over-year. Zuckerberg warned investors this innovation would be expensive, but the focus on the metaverse—which has yet to be proven profitable—has alarmed shareholders and received blowback in the press.

Since Meta relinquished its Facebook branding in 2021, it wants consumers to positively associate artificial intelligence with Meta, Goyal said. Just five months after announcing the company’s new focus, Zuckerberg promoted Clegg to his role as the president a global affairs, Meta’s top dog for policy. Previously, he held the title of vice president and oversaw both global policy and public relations. Clegg’s elevated role would include handling regulatory issues as the company builds the metaverse, Zuckerberg said.

The promotion suggests Clegg’s communications style—being semi-apologetic but clear—works for Zuckerberg, said Goyal.

Nick Clegg’s message about the metaverse

Clegg’s blog post reiterates what Zuckerberg has been saying for the last year. Clegg cited research that said metaverse technology can keep students more engaged, help them apply theoretical skills and aid teachers in individualizing lessons. He referenced the roles of Meta and the companies it partners with in advancing education.

“Metaverse educational use cases are not the worst idea I’ve heard,” said Joe Bonner, a financial analyst for New York-based Argus Research who covers Meta. Clegg is making nods towards this as the future, but the glaring question is how schools are supposed to fund learning in the metaverse, he said.

Clegg has an answer for that. “Crucially, it will be up to governments to help to ensure that all schools have access to these technologies, so that educational inequalities don’t get further entrenched simply because better resourced schools can get hold of hardware others can’t,” he wrote. He became accustomed to the issues of how the wealth of children’s families impacts a child’s education while in the U.K. government, he wrote.

Former UK MP Nick Clegg Is Looking Like Mark Zuckerberg’s New Metaverse Messenger