Chris Cox returns as Facebook product chief a year after disagreement with Zuckerberg

LOS ANGELES: It's all water under the bridge, apparently: Chris Cox is coming back to Facebook as chief product officer, after his sudden departure in Mar 2019 over an apparent dispute with his boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, over strategy.

Cox, in announcing his return to Facebook in a post on Thursday (Jun 11) on the social network, said "it's a different world now".

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"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 to self-destruct after a certain period of time.

That evidently did not 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 of misinformation and divisive content on the platform – work that Zuckerberg and other senior executives de-prioritised, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

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Cox, who will rejoin Facebook on Jun 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!"

READ: Early Facebook staffers denounce Zuckerberg stance on Trump posts

READ: After Facebook staff walkout, Zuckerberg defends no action on Trump posts

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 did not violate Facebook's policies forbidding incitement of violence, and he has said the company does not want to "do fact-checks for politicians". Facebook is now reviewing its policies in the wake of the controversy.

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