Twitter public policy chief opens up about the realities of top tech lobbying
Nick Pickles claimed his job is often more educating than advocating
One of Twitter’s top lobbyists has weighed in to the debate about Nick Clegg joining Facebook, suggesting that lobbying will only be a small part of the new job.
Nick Pickles joined the social media giant in 2014 as UK head of public policy and is now based at the firm’s San Francisco HQ as senior public policy strategist. Responding to the news of Clegg’s appointment, he argued: “Every other industry has always hired people with Government experience to help them navigate these sorts of issues. Nick Clegg will bring great experience to Facebook and that’s not a bad thing.”
In an extended Twitter post, Pickles also made a surprise call for stronger action to tackle the revolving door between politics and lobbying. “There should be a much more robust framework to slow down the revolving door across every sector, and anyone who has worked in politics knows the current system of no contact on specific lobbying issues is inadequate,” he stated.
But Pickles insisted that lobbying was not a significant part of his role at Twitter. He said: "Lobbying has always been a tiny fraction of my time in the tech industry. Far more has gone into finding solutions to the pressing public policy issues of the day and working with colleagues to address the challenges that are posed by tech.
“Those challenges are often novel, new, unforeseen or equally predictable and the result of an imperfect decision-making process. That’s the same in any business, and in government. Equally, explaining processes, rationale, frameworks where people are focussed on the first order question and not the second/third order effects of a policy proposal or corporate decision is primarily education, not lobbying.”
Before joining Twitter, Pickles was director of libertarian pressure group Big Brother Watch and stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the 2010 general election. During a 2012 chat with PAN for the ‘two minutes with’ section of the magazine, Pickles described himself as “a Yorkshireman lost in SW2” and said his favourite night out was “probably a gig at the Brixton Academy followed by some late night gin establishment”.
Ending his piece about tech lobbying on a self-deprecating note, Pickles described himself as “an idiot from Wakefield who somehow stumbled into a job that was beyond my comprehension when I was made redundant back in 2010 and moved to London without a job… Words can't describe how lucky I am”.