Billionaire Peter Thiel became one of the most unpopular people in left-leaning Silicon Valley when it was revealed he donated $1.25 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The political climate has become so polarizing that Thiel’s business associates are actually having to explain why they plan to continue working with him.
In a leaked internal memo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a stand for free speech and rejected the idea that Thiel should no longer serve as a member of the social media giant’s board because of his Trump support.
“I want to quickly address the questions and concerns about Peter Thiel as a board member and Trump supporter,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We care deeply about diversity. That’s easy to say when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It’s a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about. That’s even more important.”
“We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate. There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault. It may be because they believe strongly in smaller government, a different tax policy, healthcare system, religious issues, gun rights or any other issue where he disagrees with Hillary.
I know there are strong views on the election this year both in the US and around the world. We see them play out on Facebook every day. Our community will be stronger for all our differences — not only in areas like race and gender, but also in areas like political ideology and religion.
That’s ultimately what Facebook is about: giving everyone the power to share our experiences, so we can understand each other a bit better and connect us a little closer together.”
Someone appeared to take a photo of the memo on their computer screen rather than the traditional screenshot. The photo first appeared on Hacker News, and other news outlets later reported that the memo seems to be authentic.
Zuckerberg’s response to the Thiel controversy was one of the first major tests of the CEO’s stated commitment to the diversity of ideas.
Like he said, it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to put it into practice when it counts.