|21 January, 2020

Facebook targets UK growth with 1,000 hires this year

Over half of the new jobs will be in technology, including software engineering and data science

Image used for illustrative purpose. Attendees walk past a Facebook logo in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Attendees walk past a Facebook logo in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

LONDON - Facebook will hire 1,000 people in London this year in roles such as product development and safety as it continues to grow its biggest engineering centre outside the United States after Britain leaves the European Union.

Over half of the new jobs will be in technology, including software engineering and data science, Facebook's vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said in an interview.

Other roles will be in the "community integrity" team, which makes products to detect and remove harmful content from platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Mendelsohn said London's appeal was not only in its technology ecosystem but also the strength of its creative industries.

She said that while Facebook's enthusiasm for London was undimmed, like other tech companies it wanted certainty about Brexit.

"The Johnson government has been very clear about what that looks like, and so we will continue to invest here in London," she said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Facebook's growth was "great news". "We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, alongside being one of the best places for technology companies to be based," he said.

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will announce the new jobs, which will take its total UK employees to more than 4,000, on Tuesday before travelling to the World Economic Forum in Davos with Mendelsohn, where they will meet global leaders, regulators and other business chiefs.

The company is trying to rebuild trust in its platforms after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, in which a British political consulting firm collected data from Facebook for voter profiling and targeting.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's public affairs chief and a former British politician, said on Monday that the company will do a better job of preventing bad actors from manipulating this year's U.S. presidential election than it did four years ago.

Mendelsohn said trust would take time to rebuild.

"We also understand that this is an ongoing important conversation - we want to be part of that conversation," she said. "We want to be working with policymakers in this area to get to thoughtful policy."

Facebook has commissioned research to show the economic benefits its platforms bring to businesses in Europe.

The study by Copenhagen Economics, which questioned 7,7320 businesses across 15 countries, estimated Facebook apps helped create 208 billion euros ($230 billion) of economic value last year.

"When you extrapolate that further, what you see is that has resulted in 3.1 million jobs in Europe as a result of people utilising our platforms," Mendelsohn said.

($1 = 0.9020 euros)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Jan Harvey) ((Elizabeth.Howcroft@thomsonreuters.com; +44 02075421662;))

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