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.
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.
BREAKING: In a secret 2019 meeting, Mark Zuckerberg reportedly struck an agreement with Jared Kushner that Facebook would not fact-check political speech during the 2020 election — in exchange, the Trump administration would avoid significantly regulating Facebook. (per @chafkin)
— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) September 20, 2021
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.
Cutting a secret deal with Jared Kushner to go easy on Trump re: fact-checking political posts on FB in exchange for lax regulations doesn’t at all sound like something Mark Zuckerberg would do.
— NoelCaslerComedy (@caslernoel) September 20, 2021
“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.
Chafkin frames Zuckerberg as an acolyte of Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who he says “wrote the book on monopoly capitalism.”
this endorsement! https://t.co/cPAclKmFxX
— Max Chafkin (@chafkin) September 20, 2021