On Wednesday, the most influential people in the tech industry gathered at Trump Tower in Manhattan for a conversation with president-elect Donald Trump.
CEOs from the largest companies in tech, including Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google, attended the summit.
But one prominent tech CEO was curiously absent: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Attending on behalf of Facebook was instead Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s COO and a former chief of staff for the United States treasury department.
Zuckerberg’s decision to skip the high-profile meeting with Trump is unclear — a Facebook spokesman declined to comment about the meeting and didn’t respond to a question about why Zuckerberg wasn’t there.
But the 32-year-old billionaire’s absence is notable. Zuckerberg was vocal about his opposition to Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and trade earlier this year.
“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others, for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade and, in some cases around the world, even cutting access to the internet,” Zuckerberg said during a Facebook conference in April.
When Trump won the election, Zuckerberg appeared to take a veiled jab at the president-elect by saying that “progress does not move in a straight line.”
Zuckerberg has also tried to maintain a diplomatic stance on Trump when it comes to Facebook’s role in the election and his connection to Facebook board member and early investor Peter Thiel. Thiel serves on Trump’s transition team and helped set up the Wednesday meeting between Trump and the tech industry.
During the course of Trump’s campaign, Facebook employees reportedly asked Zuckerberg whether they should block the now-president-elect’s Facebook page for hate speech — a request Zuckerberg ultimately denied. He also threw cold water on the idea that the spread of fake news stories on Facebook could have swayed the election in Trump’s favour.
When it was discovered that Facebook board member Peter Thiel had donated to Trump’s campaign, Zuckerberg came to Thiel’s defence in an internal memo to Facebook employees.
“We care deeply about diversity,” he wrote in the October memo. “That’s easy to say when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It’s a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about. That’s even more important.”
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