- During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about hiring and firing decisions based on political affiliation.
- Among the questions, Cruz asked Zuckerberg about the case of Palmer Luckey – the Oculus VR co-founder and Oculus Rift creator who no longer works at Facebook.
- Luckey was outed as having funded an anti-Hillary Clinton meme group, and he left Facebook with little explanation about six months later.
- Zuckerberg didn’t comment on specifics of Luckey’s firing, but did say that it wasn’t due “to a political view.”
In case you’ve already forgotten, Luckey is the charismatic entrepreneur who once graced the cover of Time Magazine – the poster boy for the future of virtual reality, made real by his invention: The “Oculus Rift.” Facebook liked the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset so much that it bought the company that Luckey co-founded, Oculus VR, in 2014 for $US2 billion.
Luckey was in his early-20s at the time.
Facebook still owns Oculus VR, and is working on new versions of the Oculus Rift headset. Luckey, however, was ushered out of Facebook in March 2017 – at the time, Facebook didn’t say whether he was fired or if he quit.
What was clear, however, was that he left Facebook about six months after news surfaced of his bankrolling of a bizarre, meme-focused anti-Hillary Clinton group (The Daily Beast has the original report, which goes into much more detail).
So why’s his name coming up over a year after his firing, from Senator Ted Cruz of all people?
Because Cruz seemingly believes that Luckey’s firing was politically motivated. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Luckey hosted a fundraiser for Senator Cruz last April.
Here’s the full exchange:
SENATOR CRUZ: “In your testimony, you say that you have 15 to 20 thousand people working on security and content review. Do you know the political orientation of those 15 to 20 thousand people engaged in content review?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: “We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they’re joining the company.”
CRUZ: “Have you ever made hiring/firing decisions based on political positions and what candidates they support?”
CRUZ: “Why was Palmer Luckey fired?”
ZUCKERBERG: “That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here.”
CRUZ: “You just made a specific representation that you didn’t make decisions based on political views.”
ZUCKERBERG: “Well I can commit that it wasn’t because of a political view.”
Read more on Zuckerberg’s blockbuster Senate hearing:
- Business Insider’s live blog of the entire hearing
- Zuckerberg hinted that Facebook could offer a paid version one day
- Zuckerberg says AI won’t be able to reliably detect hate speech for ‘five to 10’ years
- Zuckerberg says Mueller’s office has interviewed Facebook employees in the Russia investigation
- Zuckerberg claims no knowledge of Palantir’s involvement with the Facebook, Cambridge Analytica scandal
- Zuckerberg will not be under oath during his Senate hearing, but will still have a ‘legal obligation to testify truthfully’
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