select all

Facebook Is Never Going to Talk About Peter Thiel

Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Here are some things to know about Peter Thiel. Peter Thiel is a famed tech-industry entrepreneur whose portfolio includes PayPal, Facebook, and the secretive data-mining company Palantir. Peter Thiel is also a delegate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

A few other things to know. Silicon Valley, generally speaking, is dependent on skilled engineers and developers who are often immigrants or the children of immigrants. It is why the tech sector has advocated for immigration reform in recent years. Donald Trump, throughout his campaign and particularly in the wake of the Orlando shooting, has advocated for preventing Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, as well as possible action against their natural-born-citizen children.

BuzzFeed asked three of the companies on whose board Thiel sits — Facebook, Palantir, and workplace-efficiency platform Asana — about his support for Donald Trump. They all said, well, nothing.

Contacted by BuzzFeed News, none would comment on their board member’s association with Trump, or respond to how it might affect company policy, or say if they shared the viewpoint that Muslims and their children constitute a security threat.

Facebook’s own CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has previously alluded to disagreement with Trump’s xenophobic policies in public exactly once, but otherwise said nothing on the matter.

“Say nothing” is a general rule for tech companies, one that the largest and most successful — Apple and Amazon, in particular — have stuck by through controversies (and through regular business). It’s proven effective. Just a month ago, Facebook only amplified and worsened a story about bias in its trending-topics feature by talking too much, leading to, somehow, a congressional investigation. High-profile partisanship attracts all sorts of unwanted attention in Silicon Valley.

Which leads us to the other reason that Facebook isn’t going to talk about Peter Thiel’s support of Trump: because Peter Thiel supports Donald Trump. Facing a potentially damaging backlash from conservatives who believe, rightly or wrongly (but generally wrongly), that Facebook is suppressing the news and ideas they care about, it’s enormously helpful to have a Republican on the board. And not some Valley RINO, either: an actual Donald Trump delegate. In that sense, his politics, ridiculous as they are, do not preclude his ability to help the company, on whose board he sits, grow in value and influence. So Facebook will keep quiet, because addressing the Thiel elephant in the room will only make things worse.

Facebook Is Never Going to Talk About Peter Thiel