Did Mark Zuckerberg Sell Out America Over Big Macs With Donald Trump?

Culture

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is denying allegations that he made a secret deal to lay off Donald Trump prior to the 2020 election. To be fair, Zuckerberg does have a face that compels you to trust him.

Max Chafkin has a new book out called The Contrarian, about Facebook board member Peter Thiel. The title strikes us as unusual, because the PayPal founder has rarely behaved contrary to expectations for an entitled rich white guy. Chafkin offers details on a 2019 dinner Thiel reportedly attended at the White House with Donald Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Zuckerberg.

A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News at the time: "As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the president and first lady at the White House." That was shady from the jump, since everything from the Trump presidency tells us "meeting with Trump," even if just for dinner, tended to translate as "Trump wants something." James Comey, the president of Ukraine, and assorted elections officials can confirm.


Chafkin writes in New York Magazine that "Thiel later told a confidant that Zuckerberg came to an understanding with Kushner during the meal. Facebook, he promised, would continue to avoid fact-checking po­litical speech — thus allowing the Trump campaign to claim whatever it wanted. If the company followed through on that promise, the Trump administra­tion would lay off on any heavy-handed regulations."

That smells like Team Collusion. Facebook would continue its bizarre hands-off policy on political speech, which would best serve politicians who just make shit up. (Read: “Republicans.") Joe Biden, even if he tried, could never lie at Trump's level. Trump's fact-less campaign could thrive free-range on Facebook.

Chafkin continues:

After the dinner, Zuckerberg took a hands-off approach to conservative sites. In late October, after he detailed the policy in a speech at Georgetown, Facebook launched a news app that showcased what the company called "deeply reported and well-sourced" outlets. Among the list of recommended publications was Breitbart, Steve Bannon's site, even though it had promoted itself as allied with the alt-right and had once included a section dedicated to "Black crime."

If you claim Breitbart is “deeply reported and well-sourced," you're either bought-off or a dullard, but it seems Zuckerberg is insisting on the second option. He says the allegations are “ridiculous," which is different from saying it's not true. If true, I think his actions are both ridiculous and obscene.

Facebook communications chief Andy Stone tweeted Monday that the company's policy was in place before Zuckerberg's meeting with Trump, for what that's worth.

If that's the case, it would certainly have been in Trump's interest to ensure that Facebook didn't change its policy. Note that the dinner took place barely a month before his first annual impeachment for extorting Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden.

During Trump's final, terrible year in office, his lies and incitement on social media only escalated. Chafkin observes that during Black Lives Matter protests, Twitter hid Trump's sick tweet that said “When the looting starts, the shooting starts," but Facebook left it alone. Facebook refused to act against the dangerous Big Lie-promoting “Stop the Steal" groups that spread unchecked across the platform. Then came January 6.

Zuckerberg's own employees begged him in October 2019 — almost two years ago — to change Facebook's policy on political speech, but we guess Zuckerberg preferred to keep the platform a safe space for whatever it is Ben Shapiro contributes to the public discourse. The staffers' open letter is sadly prescient:

Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn't protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.

In March, Zuckerberg testified at a congressional hearing on "Social Media's Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation." He said, "We did our part to secure the integrity of our election," while describing the events of January 6 like a child explaining how that antique vase broke:

"Then President Trump gave a speech … calling on people to fight. I believe that the former president should be responsible for his words and the people who broke the law should be responsible for their actions."

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg refuses to take responsibility for Facebook's malodorous impact on society. It's unlikely he ever will.

[New York Magazine]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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