Speaking at the WIRED25 conference in San Francisco on Friday, former Facebook executive Chris Cox said he feels “more free” to get involved in progressive political causes now that he no longer works at the social media giant.
As Facebook’s chief product officer, Cox spent the past few years leading the platform’s efforts to fight misinformation, protect elections, and support at-risk countries—regions where, in Cox’s words, there’s a “more potent risk of real-world harm because of the use of social media.” In 2018, he was promoted to also oversee all of WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. Over his 13-year career, Cox had become one of the most powerful people at Facebook, behind only executives like CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Cox acknowledged that he and Zuckerberg didn’t always share the same philosophy, and that was part of why he left. “It wasn’t something where I felt I wanted to spend another 13 years on social media,” he says. “And also that—as Mark and I both said—we saw things a little bit differently, and those two things combined to help me make [the decision to leave].”
The former executive said he thinks that encryption is “great” but that the social media industry hasn’t figured out the best way to “balance protecting the privacy of people’s information and continuing to keep people safe.”
Cox says he has taken on two new projects, one of which is advising Acronym, a progressive political firm that plans to spend $75 million on digital messaging campaigns to oppose Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. It’s a more partisan role that Cox could have never undertaken while at Facebook. “This is something I have wanted to work on for a while,” he says. “Trump should not be our president. The other thing I care a lot about right now is climate change, and he’s not going to help us there.”
Indeed, Cox’s other new endeavor concerns the environment. In addition to Acronym, he’s advising Planet Labs, an Earth-imaging company whose goal is to monitor changes and trends on the planet’s surface every hour. The company wants to gather environmental data, like how many coal plants are currently firing around the world or how a wildfire is progressing. That information will then be shared with investing groups, journalists, policymakers, and others.