Silicon Valley billionaire and Facebook board member Peter Thiel has been widely criticized for his support of the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
Thiel officially announced his support in July during the GOP National Convention. He presented a speech during the event, calling Trump a “builder,” ready to put America back on track.
Then, just last week, Thiel decided to up his support for the Republican nominee. The New York Times revealed that Thiel pledged $1.25 million in donations to Trump’s campaign, according to “a person close to the investor.”
The news prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to address the “issue” of Thiel supporting Trump. In a leaked, internal post, Zuckerberg did the unexpected: he defended Thiel’s right to support Trump and stressed the importance of free speech and freedom of expression in our society.
I want to quickly address the questions and concerns about Peter Thiel as a board member and Trump supporter.
We care deeply about diversity. That’s easy to say when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It’s a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about. That’s even more important.
We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate. There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault. It may be because they believe strongly in smaller government, a different tax policy, healthcare system, religious issues, gun rights or any other issue where he disagrees with Hillary.
I know there are strong views on the election this year both in the US and around the world. We see them play out on Facebook every day. Our community will be stronger for all our differences—not only in areas like race and gender, but also in areas like political ideology and religion.
That’s ultimately what Facebook is about: giving everyone the power to share our experiences, so we can understand each other a bit better and connect us a little closer together.
Back in May, Gizmodo reported that several members of the Facebook editorial team responsible for curating trending content allegedly knowingly suppressed conservative news stories. Specifically, they prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, as well as news about Facebook, from appearing in the section—even if those stories were trending among the site’s users. The workers also told Gizmodo that they were required to “inject” other stories into the feed, even if they weren't gaining any traction on the site.
In response to the news, Zuckerberg met with a number of conservatives to address their concern and then released a statement saying that “Republicans have always been an important part of Facebook” and expressing his desire to “build trust.”
This latest news regarding Theil seems to show Zuckerberg doubling down on his commitment to make Facebook a marketplace of ideas.