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Zuckerberg Denies Quid Pro Quo Deal With Trump and Kushner

Zuckerberg Denies Quid Pro Quo Deal With Trump and Kushner

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is denying a claim that he made an agreement with the Trump administration in 2019 that the company wouldn’t fact-check political posts in exchange for avoiding “heavy-handed regulations.”

On Monday, New York magazine published an excerpt from an upcoming book about billionaire Peter Thiel, who serves on Facebook’s board of directors and who the book describes as Zuckerberg’s “trusted confidant” and “political ally.” The excerpt includes reporting about a 2019 meeting that took place at the White House between Thiel, Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

MUNICH, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 15: Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In “The Contrarian”, author Max Chafkin writes that an “understanding” was brokered during this meeting that Facebook would push “state-sanctioned conservatism,” as the Thiel confidant reportedly put it. Zuckerberg has defended not fact-checking political speech on Facebook by saying he wanted the platform to avoid being the “arbiters of truth.” Facebook controversially left up a post by Trump in 2020 saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” amid Black Lives Matters protests, though the platform later suspended Trump for his posts surrounding the Capitol riot.

Zuckerberg dismissed the reported agreement, calling the idea “pretty ridiculous.” The author calls the denial “not entirely credible”, contrasting action taken by Twitter to restrict the president’s inflammatory posts during the election campaign with inaction by Facebook until after the January 6th insurrection.

“The specifics of the discussion were secret — but, as I report in my book, Thiel later told a confidant that Zuckerberg came to an understanding with Kushner during the meal,” author Chafkin says. “He promised Facebook would avoid fact-checking po­litical speech — thus allowing the Trump campaign to claim whatever it wanted. In return, the Trump administra­tion would lay off on any heavy-handed regulations of social media.

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Chafkin frames Zuckerberg as an acolyte of Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who he says “wrote the book on monopoly capitalism.”

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