Peter Thiel to exit Meta board and focus on US elections

8 Feb 2022

Peter Thiel. Image: Dan Taylor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A Trump ally, Peter Thiel has reportedly grown weary of some recent Facebook moderation decisions and is now focusing on politics.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder and tech investor, is stepping down from the Meta board at the company’s annual shareholder meeting later this year.

The New York Times reports that Thiel is leaving to focus his attention and resources on backing political allies of Donald Trump in the US midterm elections in November.

Thiel was the first major external investor in Facebook and joined the social media company’s board of directors in 2005, a year after its founding. Over the past 17 years, he has been a close aide and confidant of Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, who said Thiel has taught him “many lessons about business, economics and the world”.

One of the founders of PayPal in 1998, Thiel was chief executive of the company until it was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5bn. In 2003, he co-founded software company Palantir Technologies and has served as its chair.

Thiel has become a big name in venture capitalism, launching Silicon Valley VC firm Founders Fund in 2005. Last year, Founders Fund partnered with a European tech fund to invest in deep tech, fintech, proptech and biotech start-ups across the continent.

An avowed conservative, Thiel has also been a controversial figure in the world of tech and politics. He was dubbed “the most famous Trump supporter in tech” after supporting the 2016 Trump campaign vocally and financially, and has extended his support to Trump-allied politicians since.

Some have seen his support for Trump and his closeness to Zuckerberg as the reason behind Facebook’s lax stance on removing Trump posts that violated the platform’s community standards. However, Thiel has reportedly grown weary of some recent Meta moderation decisions saying he’d “take QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories any day over a Ministry of Truth”.

Zuckerberg thanked Thiel for “believing in us when few others would” and praised him for being an “original thinker who you can bring your hardest problems and get unique suggestions”.

In a public statement about his impending departure, Thiel said he has been privileged to work with Zuckerberg over the years and described him as “one of the great entrepreneurs of our time”.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s intelligence, energy and conscientiousness are tremendous. His talents will serve Meta well as he leads the company into a new era,” he added.

Thiel will continue to serve on the Meta board of directors until the annual shareholder meeting takes place, where he will not seek re-election.

His move comes just days after Meta’s disappointing quarterly earnings results, in which it was reported that Facebook’s daily active users had fallen for the first time in the platform’s 18-year history.

Peter Thiel at the Hy! Summit in 2014. Image: Dan Taylor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic