Zuckerberg denies claim he did deal with Trump ahead of 2020 election

Claim of deal about fact-checking made in biography of venture capitalist Peter Thiel

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 22 September 2021 22:26
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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied a reported claim that a deal was struck with former President Donald Trump regarding the fact-checking of political speech on the social media platform.

According to an extract of a new biography of venture capitalist Peter Thiel, The Contrarian, the alleged agreement was made during a White House dinner in 2019.

Writing in New York magazine, author Max Chafkin says that Mr Thiel joined Mr Zuckerberg, Jared Kushner, the president, and their spouses for dinner while on a trip to Washington DC to answer questions from Congress.

Mr Chafkin states that the specifics of the discussion were secret, but Mr Thiel later told a confidant that Mr Zuckerberg came to an understanding with Mr Kushner during the meal that Facebook would avoid fact-checking po­litical speech.

This would allow the Trump campaign to claim whatever it wanted in the build-up to the 2020 election. In return, the Trump administra­tion would lay off on any heavy-handed regulation of social media.

The alleged understanding brokered by MrThiel, Mr Chafkin writes, would see Facebook “push what the Thiel confidant called ‘state-sanctioned conservatism’”.

Mr Zuckerberg denied that there had been any deal with the Trump campaign, calling the notion “pretty ridiculous”, according to Mr Chafkin.

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 6 January insurrection.

However, Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications manager, tweeted: “The policy was announced before this dinner ever took place.”

He included examples of when the policy had been referred to in September 2019 and September 2018.

A spokesperson for Mr Thiel also denied the allegations in the book saying: “There was no deal, and no discussion of any deal. It never happened.”

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

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