A billionaire libertarian, responsible for co-founding PayPal and bankrupting Gawker Media, may have Mark Zuckerberg’s ear as the Facebook CEO navigates policies on accepting political advertisements.   

Peter Thiel, Facebook board member and its first outside investor, is advising Zuckerberg to continue accepting political advertisements and not fact-check the ones that come from politicians, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. That policy, announced in September, is in contrast with those of social media platforms such as Twitter, which banned political and issue advertising. 

Facebook’s decision to permit consumers to decide for themselves regarding political ads isn’t final, as company officials push for changes that may include banning the ads, the WSJ said. Theil’s influence at the company isn’t popular with all of Facebook’s leadership, though it is growing as more than a dozen top executives leave or plan to do so, the paper said.

Thiel, who backed Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016, also advised Zuckerberg on strategy before the CEO traveled to Washington, D.C., in October. The pair dined privately at the White House with Trump that month, NBC News reported. 

Thiel, who also is on the Social Impact Capital advisory board and founded Palantir Technologies, has been on Facebook’s board for almost 15 years and chairs its compensation, nominating and governance committee. 

  • Thiel declined to comment, WSJ said. 
  •  “We’re fortunate to have a board with diverse experiences and perspectives so we can ensure debate that reflects a cross section of views,” a Facebook spokesman told the WSJ.
  • Theil’s apparent influence was criticized in a tweet by Columbia Journalism School professor Emily Bell: “Facebook – we also have an influential board member, aligned to Donald Trump, who is influencing our content decision not to fact check political advertising.”
  • SnapChat has said it fact-checks all political ads, while TikTok bans ads.