How Mark Zuckerberg Learned Politics

Facebook’s chief, once uninterested, has transformed himself into an active political operator in the Trump era. For more than a decade as he built Facebook Inc. FB -0.30% into a global force, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear he didn’t care for politics. Early advisers strained to hold his attention in briefings about D.C. lawmakers, people familiar with the matter say, and he frequently said he would gladly leave the politics to others. No longer. Mr. Zuckerberg is now an active political operator. He has dined with President Trump, talks regularly with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and has pressed lawmakers and officials to scrutinize rivals including TikTok and Apple Inc., people involved in the discussions say. Mr. Zuckerberg’s new political moves are part of an effort to protect his company from pressures that range from antitrust scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic to criticism of its privacy practices and of its role in disseminating misinformation and conspiracy theories. Facebook is also facing new competitive threats from the likes of ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok. Forging relationships with political leaders, media personalities and activists is now critical to Facebook’s continued primacy in social media. Mr. Zuckerberg, 36 years old, speaks with conservative thinkers and civil rights groups, and—after leaving most planning for the 2016 U.S. election to deputies—he is now playing a hands-on role in setting Facebook’s policies for this year’s race. Many of those policies, especially those affecting political ads and user posts, have been contentious, eliciting criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, including President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as well as from within the company. (…) In late 2017, when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm to minimize the presence of political news, policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right, including the Daily Wire, people familiar with the matter said. Engineers redesigned their intended changes so that left-leaning sites like Mother Jones were affected more than previously planned, the people said. Mr. Zuckerberg approved the plans. “We did not make changes with the intent of impacting individual publishers,” a Facebook spokesman said.

via wsj: How Mark Zuckerberg Learned Politics

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