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Top Facebook communications exec Rachel Whetstone is departing for Netflix

Another top staffer is leaving the social network after a tough year.

Rachel Whetstone

Rachel Whetstone is leaving the top corporate communications job at Facebook and will take one running public relations for Netflix.

Whetstone is the latest high-ranking executive to leave the massive social network in recent months. Her boss, Elliot Schrage, announced in June that he was planning on leaving the company; business development head Dan Rose said last week he was also departing.

Facebook said at the time of Schrage’s departure that it would not hire an internal candidate for the job and many had wondered at the time whether Whetstone had been passed over — although others said she did not want it in any case. The outside search for someone to run both communications and Facebook’s public policy unit continues.

As it has turned out, being in charge of maintaining the public face of the company has been a dicey job for many of those involved.

Whetstone, for example, arrived just over a year ago to run comms for WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. But she quickly was dragooned to help deal with the buzzsaw of controversy about many fraught issues, including how the Russians had misused the platform in the 2016 U.S. elections, the proliferation of fake content and also assessing Facebook’s responsibility for some real-world tragedies related to the use of its tools. Whetstone was also quickly pulled into handling the myriad of criticisms about the performance of top execs like CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Ironically, sources said that Whetstone had come to Facebook to avoid the many thorny challenges she had dealt with in previous jobs. Just before she came to Facebook, Whetstone served as head of communications and public policy for Uber, where she clashed with CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, who was later ousted. Before Uber, Whetstone was head of communications and policy at Google, where she worked for a decade and oversaw a nonstop barrage of PR crises — including some highly personal ones.

Speaking of controversies, Whetstone is replacing former Netflix comms head Jonathan Friedland, who was fired earlier this summer from the digital entertainment company. In a memo to staff, CEO Reed Hastings said at the time that Friedland’s “descriptive use of the N-word on at least two occasions at work showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity.”

Yeah, it’s been that kind of year in PR execs in Silicon Valley.

Whetstone had recently split communications duties with Caryn Marooney, who will again run the whole global communications division at Facebook.

“It’s been amazing to be able to learn from one of the best over this last year,” said Marooney. “We are grateful for what Rachel has brought to our team and we know she will have continued success at Netflix.”

And while Whetstone gets to now preside over the rollout of the final season of “House of Cards,” Marooney will have her hands full next week with real politics when Sandberg is expected to testify along with top executives from Twitter and Google in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, D.C.

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