Business & Tech

Facebook’s top product executive, Chris Cox, is leaving, the highest-level departure in years

Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook, holds a Mevo camera with integrated Facebook Live streaming during the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco, California April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
REUTERS/FIle
Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook, in April 2016.

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook’s top executive ranks underwent another change Thursday, with the loss of the company’s chief product officer and the head of its WhatsApp messaging service.

The departures follow two years of scandals for Facebook around data privacy and disinformation. The issues have buffeted the Silicon Valley company, causing internal turmoil and a redirection in strategy.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, announced that Facebook would shift away from public sharing of posts and focus on private conversations across the company’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. The decision, which involves knitting together three of the world’s largest digital communications services, was controversial internally and has upset some employees who were asked to work on the project, according to current and former employees who were not authorized to speak publicly.

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The executives leaving Facebook are Chris Cox, chief product officer and one of the social network’s highest-ranking executives, and Chris Daniels, head of WhatsApp.

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Cox has long been in Zuckerberg’s inner circle. He joined Facebook in 2005 as one of the company’s first 15 software engineers and was instrumental in building the News Feed, the stream of posts that people see when they log into the service.

“For over a decade, I’ve been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: Social media’s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral,” Cox said in a note to employees Thursday. “As its builders we must endeavor to understand its impact — all the good, and all the bad — and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good.”

“This is our greatest responsibility,” he added.

In a note to the staff, Zuckerberg said Cox had discussed the idea of leaving for a few years. After 2016, he agreed to stay to work on some of the social network’s issues.

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“I will really miss Chris, but mostly I am deeply grateful for everything he has done to build this place and serve our community,” Zuckerberg said.

Daniels has watched over WhatsApp after the messaging service’s founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, left the company over disagreements with Zuckerberg last year. In his note to the staff, Zuckerberg praised Daniels’ work, saying “the diversity of challenges he has helped us navigate is impressive.”

Zuckerberg had long had a stable executive group at the helm of Facebook. But that has changed in recent years as the company has grappled with its lapses and tries to reorient itself. Apart from Koum and Acton leaving Facebook, the founders of Instagram — Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger — have departed, along with the company’s head of communications and policy and its security chief.