Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had an undisclosed meeting with Donald Trump at the White House in October, not long after Facebook quietly eased its policies to let politicians lie in ads and as intense pressure was building on the company to roll that change back, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
An NBC source said that ultra-conservative chairman of cyber-intelligence firm Palantir and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, who has parroted Trump’s continual attacks on Silicon Valley tech giants, was also in attendance. Thiel has said tech platforms operate as “totalitarian, semi-totalitarian one-party states” and hinted bans of Republicans were “intentional acts of political sabotage.” (Thiel secretly financed the lawsuit that bankrupted Gizmodo’s former parent company, Gawker Media, back in 2016.)
NBC News pegged the Zuckerberg-Trump-Thiel meeting as occurring during the Facebook CEO’s visit to DC that month, when he talked at Georgetown University on Oct. 17 and defended the company’s heavily criticized Libra cryptocurrency project before Congress on Oct. 23. Around that time, the furor over Facebook’s decision to let politicians lie in ads—something that the Trump re-election campaign has taken full advantage of—was in full swing. Days later, Facebook also announced it would include far-right and sycophantic pro-Trump site Breitbart as a partner in a forthcoming Facebook News section. The social media company is also staring down an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
It’s not clear what was discussed, let alone whether any of those subjects were raised. (For example, one topic that came up during Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s visit to the White House in April was apparently the president’s conviction that Twitter was deliberately making it harder for him to... log into his account.) But Zuckerberg has also reportedly built ties in quiet with high-profile conservatives including bigoted Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “logic” troll Ben Shapiro, and Brent Bozell, head of the rabidly propagandistic Media Research Center. It’s clear that Zuckerberg is trying to smooth ties with the White House and other Republican leaders at a time when its political shit-storms continue to get worse.
As NBC noted, it was the second time Zuckerberg met with Trump in a month after a visit on Sept. 19. Hours before the news of the newer, undicslosed meeting broke on Wednesday, Trump’s re-election campaign attacked Facebook for considering limiting how politicians and political parties could target ads on the platform. Facebook announced that change later in the evening.
According to NBC, the White House declined to comment. A Facebook spokesperson sought to portray the meeting as humdrum routine for Zuckerberg in an email to NBC, writing, “As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House.”