February 27, 2020

Facebook's Conservative Evolution

“Peter Thiel is Big Tech’s most prominent Trump supporter. He is an unabashed enemy of the free press, having covertly funded a lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker three years ago. He has become one of the most vocal pro-monopoly advocates, taking a lonely stand in defense of Silicon Valley’s much-maligned megacorporations. He has channeled his immense wealth into projects that promise total surveillance of everyone and immortality for the superrich. And he has become Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted adviser during the most turbulent period in the social network’s history.

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Thiel, a longtime Facebook board member, has become Zuckerberg’s consigliere. With the company’s leadership under fire for its refusal to vet the veracity of political advertisements or limit advertisers’ ability to target ads—in contrast to Google and Twitter, which have taken steps to crack down on misleading content—Thiel has encouraged the embattled Facebook CEO “not to bow to public pressure.” The Journal noted that Thiel was “extending his influence while the company’s board and senior ranks are in flux.”

Once quiet, Thiel’s influence over Facebook has grown louder as the company has tried to navigate a succession of scandals and seen its popularity plummet. His values are driving Facebook as the company doubles down on policies that empower demagogues and despots and disempower the rest of us.

Hauled before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year to address the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg made the case that his company cared deeply about making the world a better place. “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.” Zuckerberg and his allies then went on a public relations blitz to convince an increasingly skeptical public that Facebook had learned its lesson.”

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