Facebook exec Nick Clegg called Big Tobacco comparisons 'extremely misleading' but said the company needs to be 'held to account' after whistleblower testimony

Facebook exec Nick Clegg called Big Tobacco comparisons 'extremely misleading' but said the company needs to be 'held to account' after whistleblower testimony
Facebook executive Nick Clegg defended Facebook amid mounting scrutiny during an appearance on ABC News' "This Week.". ABC News/This Week
  • Facebook executive Nick Clegg on Sunday defended the company against comparisons to Big Tobacco.
  • The social-media giant has been under intense scrutiny after a former employee publicly criticized the company.

Nick Clegg, who works as the vice president for global affairs and communications at Facebook, defended the social-media company Sunday in an interview amid mounting criticism and a turbulent week.

"I think it's extremely misleading analogy," Clegg said of comparisons to Big Tobacco. "We're a social media app that many, many people around the world use because it brings utility, it helps small businesses, it brings joy, it brings pleasure, it connects to you with people you care and love the most. That's what Facebook is about."

At a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said "Facebook and Big Tech are facing a Big Tobacco moment."

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As Yahoo! News reported, the comparisons stem from the idea that Facebook is aware its products can be harmful in the same way tobacco companies knew their products were dangerous years before they publicly disclose them.

Clegg deemed such analogies "overblown and somewhat simplistic," comparing them to other analogies that equated video games to drugs.


"But I think if there's any silver lining to this week is that maybe we can now move beyond the slogans, the sound bites, the simplistic caricatures and actually look at solutions and, yes, of course, regulation," Clegg said.

In an interview the aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" last Sunday, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen claimed the company isn't actually fighting the spread of disinformation as it claims. She claimed that Facebook intentionally left harmful content on the platform because it was profitable and removing it would cost them users.

As Insider previously reported, Haugen also shared the documents showing Facebook knew Instagram negatively impacted the mental health of its young users, and that employees were worried that a 2018 algorithm change further promoted sensationalistic and divisive content.

In testimony before the Senate last week, Haugen called on Congress to create a regulatory agency to regulate Facebook and other tech companies, though she rejected the idea that Facebook should be broken up into smaller companies.

"It's in everyone's interest," she said.


Facebook and its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have largely denied Haugen's claims.

When asked about the testimony on Sunday, Clegg said Facebook needed to be more transparent so the public could hold it accountable.

"We understand that with success comes responsibility, comes criticism, comes scrutiny, comes responsibility, and that's why we're, you know, the first Silicon Valley company to set up an independent oversight board that independently adjudicate on these difficult content decisions," he said.

Clegg said Facebook was submitting its data on content it removed from the platform to an independent auditor.

"Again, no one has done that before, because we realize we need to be held to account," he said.