Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced today that board member Peter Thiel will not seek re-election to the position, effectively ending his tenure at the top of the social media company’s leadership.
The change is not a big surprise. Thiel has increasingly become publicly involved in political activities, including supporting various candidates for Congress. Given the importance of Meta’s Facebook and WhatsApp services in the global conversation, especially during election periods, having a less politically charged board can be salutary.
Feedback on the change was quick. business journalist Dan Primack observed that Thiel’s connection to Facebook, a major tech platform, could be irritating to his candidates who criticize major tech companies. Thiel too supported former US President Donald Trumpwhich regularly attacks Facebook and other technology platforms for their content moderation policies.
More to the point, the general mood in right-wing American political circles is that Facebook and other tech giants are inherently biased against their political views; Facebook actually has bent its own rules to give extra space to conservative and reactionary figures, but the narrative has been fueled long enough to persist in the face of evidence.
We are not insisting on the political point just to be rude. Early reports of Thiel’s departure detail his desire to become more political. THE The New York Times writes that Thiel “wants to focus on influencing November’s midterm elections” after leaving Meta’s board, while Bloomberg writes that the investor “plans to increase its political support for former President Donald Trump’s agenda during the 2022 election.”
At some point, Thiel had to choose between working for big tech and funding candidates who attacked big tech. Since he’s already rich, it might not have been too difficult to choose the latter option rather than keep his seat on the board.
Regardless, the move marks a material shift in the makeup of Facebook’s leadership, which matters. a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen remains on the board along with the CEOs of Dropbox, DoorDash and others.
Facebook shares, which are down just over 5% in regular trading, remain largely unchanged in after-hours trading.