Mark Zuckerberg voted Monday to keep Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board of directors, despite Thiel’s controversial role in bankrupting Gawker.
Thiel’s personal and political views have been raising questions about Facebook’s position on free speech over the past few weeks.
Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has always said he’s a staunch supporter of the freedom of expression, and has spoken out against Trump.
Several weeks ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Thiel’s seat wasn’t in jeopardy. Since Zuckerberg holds the majority of the voting rights, his decision on Monday was the most important.
During the question and answer portion of the shareholder meeting, Zuckerberg and his management team were asked about several recent controversies, including the debate on how the company chooses stories for the Trending Topics section, the use of Facebook by members of ISIS, and the ability for crimes to be live-streamed on the platform.
No one asked about Thiel, and Zuckerberg and his management team said nothing on the matter either.
Many in the press are concerned that keeping a figure like Thiel on Facebook’s board portends a shaky future for journalism.
As more people around the world join Facebook, the company’s ability to control news distribution grows as well. Many have interpreted Thiel’s support of the suit against Gawker as a means of quashing a viewpoint that he did not agree with. But Thiel said he’s “proud” to have supported Hulk Hogan’s $140 million lawsuit, which forced Gawker into bankruptcy earlier this month.
“Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to publish sex tapes without consent,” said Thiel. “I don’t think anybody but Gawker would argue otherwise… They routinely relied on an assumption that victims would be too intimidated or disgusted to even attempt redress for clear wrongs.”
Dan Gillmor, a media professor at Arizona State University, sees Thiel as a gauge for Facebook’s stance on journalism.
“Facebook claims to believe in freedom of expression, and in journalism, and at some level that’s true,” Dan Gillmor, a media professor, recently wrote. “But every minute it allows Thiel to remain on its board of directors, it will be broadcasting how limited those values truly are.”
If Thiel is allowed to stay on, Gillmor wrote, it will show that Zuckerberg “wants to exploit [the free press], but doesn’t honor it.”
Thiel isn’t the only controversial figure on Facebook’s board.
Prominent investor Marc Andreessen posted a series of controversial tweets earlier this year about India, after the country’s regulators struck down Facebook’s “Free Basics” program.
Zuckerberg responded, saying that the comments “do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”
In addition to reelecting Thiel and the rest of the board on Monday, Facebook shareholders also approved a new share class that will result in Zuckerberg losing majority voting control of the company if he leaves.
“These new terms thus ensure that we will not remain a founder-controlled company after we cease to be a founder-led company,” Facebook said in a proxy statement filed to the SEC