Tech

Facebook's chief product officer returns after surprise departure a year ago

Key Points
  • Long-time Facebook executive Chris Cox on Thursday announced his return to the social media company, saying he will resume his role as chief product officer.
  • Cox returns to the company after suddenly quitting in March 2019 after a decision by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to pivot the company toward privacy.
Facebook's Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Long-time Facebook executive Chris Cox on Thursday announced his return to the social media company, saying he will resume his role as chief product officer.

"Facebook and our products have never been more relevant to our future," Cox wrote on his Facebook page. "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 returns to the company after suddenly quitting in March 2019 after a decision by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to pivot the company toward privacy and encrypt the private messages sent between users on Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. Critics have said that the encryption of these messages will make it harder for Facebook to monitor and prevent child exploitation through its services. 

"I'm really excited Chris is coming back to Facebook," Zuckerberg wrote in a post

Cox has previously been described by employees as the heart and soul of Facebook, playing a major role in welcoming employees when they first join the company. Cox said his return will be June 22, and he will attend the company's Q&A on Thursday to answer questions. Before leaving Facebook last year, Cox oversaw all of Facebook's apps, including the main Facebook app, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Cox did not specify in his announcement which divisions he'll oversee when he rejoins the company.

"I've been following Facebook and I've been encouraged by progress on so many of the big issues facing us," Cox wrote. "In the past month the world has grown more chaotic and unstable, which has only given me more resolve to help out."

A number of employees took to Twitter to praise Cox's return. 

Besides Cox, Facebook on Thursday announced it will also elevate the role of Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams, who will now report directly to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Williams will now be involved in the company's decision-making meetings, Sandberg said in a post.

These staff changes come after a turbulent week for Facebook in which many of its own employees and business partners criticized the company for taking no action on a post by President Donald Trump in which he said that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," in reference to Black Lives Matter protesters. Employees who protested the decision not to remove or moderate the Trump post argued that it violated Facebook's community standards, which prohibit language that incites serious violence.

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