President Donald Trump invited Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and board member Peter Thiel to a White House dinner in October, but didn’t disclose the meeting to the public.
Facebook told NBC News about the secret meeting on Wednesday. The dinner took place at the White House while Zuckerberg was in Washington to testify to Congress about his company’s Libra cryptocurrency.
It’s a sign of the times that two towering figures in the cryptocurrency industry met secretly with the president of the United States in October.
There’s no word on what was discussed, although it’s hard to imagine cryptocurrency wasn’t at least mentioned in passing, given that Zuckerberg had just testified before Congress about Libra.
It’s just as likely that the trio discussed the 2020 election or national security. Given the scope of Facebook’s surveillance power, it’s now a perfect channel for the US intel community.
And one of Peter Thiel’s other companies, Palantir Technologies, is a major US government partner, with an $800 million US Army contract to build software for the battlefield.
But the mere fact that some of crypto’s leading innovators wield such political clout bodes well for the future of disruptive financial tech innovation. Thiel is an avowed “bitcoin maximalist” who’s invested a tidy sum in blockchain startups like BlockFi’s crypto lending and interest-earning crypto accounts.
Facebook has taken massive fire for its influence on US politics in the years following Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. An undisclosed meeting between a president running for reelection and the embattled social media mogul is what political strategists would call “bad optics.”
Donald Trump’s opponents responded to the news with hashtags like #DumpFacebook, #DeleteFacebook, and #FacebookDeleted.
Zuckerberg is turning into a uniquely dangerous political figure in world history.
Remember with Trump, everything is a transaction.
Trump can do A LOT for Facebook. And Facebook can in return do a lot for Trump.
The speculation is not entirely unfounded, nor merely motivated by partisan animus. Peter Thiel has been an outspoken Trump supporter. He’s one of the few conservative executives in Silicon Valley.
The White House declined to comment on the dinner. Facebook’s disclosure of the meeting was couched in defensive language. In an emailed statement to NBC News, a Facebook spokesperson said:
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.
Mark Zuckerberg has faced intense criticism for his platform’s handling of political ads, including its refusal to fact check candidates’ campaign ads. News of the undisclosed meeting follows Twitter’s decision to ban political advertising from its platform, the same day that Hillary Clinton put Facebook on blast for its ad policy.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.