Thiel Advises Zuckerberg to Defend Free Speech

(p. A5) Facebook Inc.’s senior leadership is increasingly divided over how to address criticism of the company’s effect on U.S. politics, with board member and billionaire investor Peter Thiel serving as an influential voice advising CEO Mark Zuckerberg not to bow to public pressure, according to people familiar with the matter.

One flashpoint of late: political advertisements. Mr. Thiel has argued that Facebook should stick to its controversial decision, announced in September [2019], to continue accepting them and to not fact-check those from politicians, the people said.

. . .

Some of Mr. Thiel’s views are shared by others within Facebook, including on political ads, with many current and former executives advising Mr. Zuckerberg that the company shouldn’t be in the position of deciding what claims are accurate, people familiar with the matter said.

. . .

Mr. Zuckerberg has long valued Mr. Thiel’s advice. Some people close to both men described their current relationship as an alliance, based in part on their long history together.

Mr. Thiel, 52 years old, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and ultimately made more than $1 billion on his stake. Early on, Mr. Thiel advised Mr. Zuckerberg, now 35, to focus on growing the Facebook platform’s user base rather than on making money, contrarian advice at the time that laid the groundwork for Facebook’s riches today. Mr. Thiel and his funds have since sold off most of their Facebook shares.

. . .

Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have said repeatedly that they value ideological diversity on the board, although that view isn’t shared by all of the company’s workforce.

“Mark is friends with Peter Thiel and a lot of Republicans,” said a former Facebook employee who worked in its political group. “It’s a reality people aren’t willing to accept.”

For the full story, see:

Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and Jeff Horwitz. “Political Divisions Roil Facebook.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, December 18, 2019): A5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 17, 2019, and has the title “Peter Thiel at Center of Facebook’s Internal Divisions on Politics.” The last sentence quoted above appears in the online version, but not in the print version, of the article.)

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