Luckey & unlucky at Facebook

On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey — Facebook bought his company and made him an executive — had been fired by Facebook for his heterodoxy. The story is by Kirsten Grind and Keach Hagey under the plot-spoiling headline “Why Did Facebook Fire a Top Executive? Hint: It Had Something to Do With Trump” (accessible here on Outline). Subhead: “Palmer Luckey, co-founder of virtual-reality pioneer Oculus, was ousted after his political activity sparked a furor within the social-media giant and Silicon Valley.”

Among other things — we all know about the ideological conformity that reigns in Silicon Valley — the story represents a tangled web of apparent deception by Facebook emanating from the top of the company. The story strongly implies that Mark Zuckerberg committed perjury in his testimony regarding Luckey’s departure from Facebook when he appeared before Congress.

Key sentences: “When testifying before Congress about data privacy earlier this year, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg denied the departure had anything to do with politics. Mr. Luckey, it turns out, was put on leave, then fired, according to people familiar with the matter. More recently, he has told people the reason was his support for Donald Trump and the furor that his political beliefs sparked within Facebook and Silicon Valley, some of those people say.”

Students of defamation may recall (vaguely, in my case) that the imputation of criminal misconduct constitutes libel per se. Truth, however, is a defense. Reading the story, I wanted to see with my own eyes the internal company emails that it cites. The story skimps on the emails. Even so, the story is intensely reported and persuasive.

In today’s Journal Elliot Kaufman cautiously untangles a part of the web of deception that intrigued me; he omits only the element of perjury in Zuckerberg’s testimony. Elliot’s column is “Even the libertarians get Luckey sometimes” (accessible here on Outline).

The Journal has also posted the video of Luckey speaking at the WSJ Tech D.Live conference discussing Google’s recent move to withdraw from its contract with Project Maven. It makes for an interesting companion to the Grind/Hagey story and the Kaufman column.

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