Facebook CEO and majority shareholder Mark Zuckerberg on Monday voted to retain each of his company's eight board members, including famed investor Peter Thiel, who has recently become a source of controversy in Silicon Valley. Thiel has come out in support of anti-immigrant Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and was recently exposed as the source of funding for lawsuits against Gawker Media that ultimately drove the publication into bankruptcy.
However, the decision to re-elect Thiel came as little surprise. Thiel is the social network's first big investor and he has served on the company's board for more than a decade. Earlier this month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also publicly said that Thiel would not be going anywhere. Yet, the decision remains a controversial one that continues to draw negative headlines for the company.
By voting to keep Thiel, Zuckerberg is embracing a man who many now consider an opponent of press freedom for the war he waged with Gawker Media. This even though the company has been at pains to improve its relationships with publishers in the wake of a flap over how it curates news. Zuckerberg is also keeping on a man who supports Trump, a presidential candidate whose campaign has been largely fueled by bigotry and xenophobia. This even though "a more open world" is one of Facebook's five core values and Zuckerberg has made immigration reform one of his chief political causes.
"Our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected and what that means is building products that give every person in the world a voice and the ability to share everything that they care about with the people they care about," Zuckerberg said during Facebook's annual shareholder meeting on Monday.
For all the cognitive dissonance on display, the decision didn't appear to be a difficult one. Just one minute after polls closed at the Facebook meeting, the re-election of the company's board members was announced. It didn't take long to count the votes, because at Facebook Zuckerberg holds all the controlling power necessary to make decisions.
Besides the reading of his name, no mention was made of Thiel or the controversy his actions have caused. However, during the Q&A portion of the meeting, Zuckerberg and company were forced to address a question regarding claims that the company's Trending feature is biased against conservative views -- a news story brought to light in May by Gizmodo, which is a property of Gawker Media. A Facebook executive quickly fielded the question and assured shareholders that its algorithms are free of those biases.
Along with re-electing Thiel, Zuckerberg approved all proposals submitted by his company while rejecting those by outside shareholders, which include proposals that would have forced the company to offer more transparency when it comes to the matters of sustainability practices, lobbying local governments, equal pay for female employees, and more voting power for shareholders outside the company.
Among the proposals Zuckerberg approved was one that ensures his control over Facebook while also allowing him to sell off his shares in the company to fuel the philanthropic efforts of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The proposal accomplishes this task by creating a new, non-voting "Class C" of Facebook stock and giving shareholders two shares for every Class A or Class B stock they own. This will allow Zuckerberg to sell off his new Class C shares to make billions without losing his voting power and control of the company.
In short, the shareholders meeting was less about Facebook shareholders having their say than a display of Zuckerberg's personal power. For all its 1.65 billion users, Facebook remains a company run by its founder's decisions and with the help of his people. The only thing Zuckerberg offered any apologies for was his poorly timed mention of the Golden State Warriors during the meeting.
"Which unfortunately did not win last night. Um, sorry to bring that up," Zuckerberg awkwardly said before quickly moving on.