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Politics

Facebook is losing its top lawyer who's led its Russia investigation

HELP WANTED: Facebook general counsel, inquire within.

Tech Company Reps Testify To House Select Intel Committee On Russian Social Media Influence During Election

Facebook's top lawyer, Colin Stretch, is leaving the company.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

It's an open-and-shut case for Facebook's top lawyer. 

Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel, announced Tuesday he'll leave the social network by the end of the year. 

In a Facebook post, Stretch said that the company's legal team needed a leader based at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Stretch has been based in Washington, DC for "several years," he said in his post. 

"As Facebook embraces the broader responsibility Mark [Zuckerberg] has discussed in recent months, I've concluded that the company and the Legal team need sustained leadership in Menlo Park," Stretch wrote. 

Stretch has testified to Congress on multiple occasions on behalf of Facebook, answering lawmaker's questions on Russian interference during the 2016 US presidential election. Stretch has been in charge of Facebook's investigation into Russian election interference, in which government-sponsored trolls took advantage of the social network to spread propaganda to millions of people

He first joined the company in 2010, serving as a senior member of its legal team before being promoted in 2013. The accomplished lawyer was behind Facebook's 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and led the social network's court victory over the Winklevoss Twins in the same year. 

It's been quite a year for Stretch, as well as Facebook. The company is facing criticism over its misinformation policies for allowing conspiracy theorists to thrive, while lawmakers continue to argue that the social network needs to be regulated. In March, Facebook endured backlash over its Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where the UK-based firm misused data obtained on millions of people. 

Stretch isn't the only Facebook executive who leaves the company after the turmoil. In June, Facebook's long-time head of policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, said he was stepping down after 10 years with the company. In April, WhatsApp's founder Jan Koum said he was leaving Facebook after a dispute over security.

In a response to Stretch's post, Zuckerberg wrote, "Thank you for the wise counsel you have provided, and for your dedication to Facebook over the years. The work that goes into supporting our mission comes in many forms, and over the past eight years, you and your team have accomplished so much in protecting the people who use our services."

It is unclear who will replace Stretch. Facebook declined to comment on Stretch's departure.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is conducting a search for his replacement

Updated at 10:43 a.m. PT: To include a response from Facebook.
Corrected at 12:11 p.m. PT: Fixes spelling of Winklevoss.