Facebook has hired one of the top lawyers at the US Department of State to oversee its global legal functions at a time when lawmakers around the world weigh restrictions on ‘big tech’ and social media networks.

Jennifer Newstead, who currently serves as legal adviser to the state department, will become Facebook’s general counsel, replacing Colin Stretch, who announced in July last year that he planned to leave.

Before being confirmed by the Senate in December 2017, Ms Newstead was a partner at law firm Davis, Polk & Wardell where she represented clients in cross-border regulatory, enforcement and litigation matters.

Ms Newstead said in a post on Facebook’s blog she was “excited” to be joining Facebook at “an important time” and that she was “looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues as we seek to uphold our responsibilities and shared values.”

Ms Newstead’s appointment comes against at a time when Facebook, which, alongside other big tech and social media companies, face the prospect of more regulation in their near future.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s billionaire chief executive and founder, in March used an opinion piece published in the Washington Post and on his own Facebook page to set out four areas — privacy, election integrity, harmful content and data portability — that he said needed to be regulated.

Australian lawmakers took swift action following the live-streaming of the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre that left 50 people dead in March with a new law that could see internet executives jailed if they do not take swift action to remove violent content. The UK also floated the prospect of imposing tough new sanctions if they fail to stop the spread of terrorist content and child exploitation online.

“Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfil our mission,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a post on Facebook’s blog, while also thanking Mr Stretch for his “wise counsel” and playing a “crucial role in some of our most important projects.”

Facebook also announced John Pinette had joined the company as vice-president of global communications, succeeding Caryn Marooney who said in February she planned to leave. Mr Pinette was most recently the vice president of marketing and communications at Vulcan, which oversees the business activities and philanthropic efforts of Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder.

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