It’s all water under the bridge, apparently: Chris Cox is coming back to Facebook as chief product officer, after his sudden departure in March 2019 over an apparent dispute with his boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, over strategy.
Cox, in announcing his return to Facebook in a post Thursday on the social network, said “it’s a different world now.”
“Facebook and our products have never been more relevant to our future,” Cox wrote. “It’s the place I know best, it’s a place I’ve helped to build, and it’s the best place for me to roll up my sleeves and dig in to help.”
Cox exited last year after Zuckerberg outlined a new privacy vision for Facebook, setting plans for private communications on the company’s apps to be fully encrypted. Facebook also intends to create a way for user content and messages self-destruct after a certain period of time.
That evidently didn’t sit well with Cox, who wrote at the time that the privacy initiative is “a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.” Cox had championed an initiative for Facebook to reduce the spread misinformation and divisive content on platform — work that Zuckerberg and other senior execs deprioritized, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
Cox, who will rejoin Facebook on June 22, said the events of 2020 have “refocused us all, on a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and now a reckoning of racial injustice. The world is unsettled, divided. People are struggling when things were already hard.”
Zuckerberg, who reposted Cox’s message, said only, “I’m really excited Chris is coming back to Facebook!”
Among the pressing issues at Facebook is how to manage political speech.
The company has drawn criticism — including from its own employees — for deciding to take no action on Donald Trump’s post last month in which the president said about protests in Minneapolis, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Twitter placed a warning label in front of the same post, saying it violated policy banning the glorification of violence. Zuckerberg said the “looting and shooting” post didn’t violate Facebook’s policies forbidding incitement of violence, and he’s said the company does not want to “do fact-checks for politicians.” Facebook is now reviewing its policies in the wake of the controversy.
Meanwhile, the campaign of Joe Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has urged supporters to sign an open letter calling on Facebook to take more decisive action to eliminate misinformation on the platform. That includes a demand that Facebook fact-check political ads, something the social-media giant has declined to do.
Cox first joined Facebook in 2005 as a software engineer and helped build the first versions of key Facebook features, including News Feed. In 2008 he became Facebook’s first VP of product, where he built the initial product management and design teams, before being promoted to chief product officer in 2014 where he had overseen all of the company’s family of apps: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
According to Cox, while he was away from Facebook, “I refocused my time, spinning up climate change initiatives, building progressive political infrastructure for this election year, playing with my reggae band, and reconnecting with my family and kiddos.”