As part of his hour-long Senate testimony today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to assure lawmakers that he had not fired Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey for his political views. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Zuckerberg about the 2016 reports that the company had removed conservative political news from its chart of trend stories, and followed with questions about the political opinions of its moderators. When Zuckerberg said he had not asked the employees for their political opinions, Cruz went on to say, "Why was Palmer Luckey fired?"
Cruz is responding to a thorny political mini-scandal of 2016, when The Daily Beast reported that Palmer Luckey was secretly funding a pro-Trump political activism group called Nimble America, which was dedicated to the idea that "the shit is powerful and the magic of the meme is real". Luckey withdrew from the public eye when the details came out, but it has never been clear if he was fired or voluntarily abandoned. He was in Oculus for several months after, and "still worked in an active capacity" during that time, according to CEO Brendan Iribe.
"That's a specific personal issue that seems inappropriate to talk about here," Zuckerberg told Cruz in response to his question. Cruz answered and asked if it was right that Facebook "did not make decisions based on political opinions," as Zuckerberg had said. "I can confirm that it was not because of a political opinion," Zuckerberg said. This exchange seems to imply that Luckey was fired, but for reasons that were not political. This could still cover a wide range of motivations, and Zuckerberg did not offer any details.
The Daily Beast described Luckey as "funding the Trump meme machine" in 2016, which is an apparent exaggeration since the donation allegedly amounts to a small amount of $ 10,000, and the only clear action of Nimble America was placing a "Too big to jail" card. The stated aim of the group was "to get our most delicious memes against the Americans, like it or not". Subsequently, Luckey donated $ 100,000 to Trump's opening fund through fictional companies with the name of Chrono Trigger references). Critics objected to the fact that Nimble America was co-founded by r / The_Donald moderators, a pro-Trump Reddit extremist forum that is known for spreading conspiracy theories and virulent intolerance, and for the fact that Milo Yiannopoulos, who promoted the white nationalist "alt" Good ", personally had endorsed the group and apparently had" investigated "Luckey himself.
Luckey currently directs Anduril, the high-tech security and defense firm.The question about him was a small part of Today's audience, but it is a reminder of one of the problems that Facebook will face in its attempt to regain the public's trust.