Embattled Facebook investor Peter Thiel received more votes than both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in the first shareholder meeting since news broke that Thiel had funded the lawsuits against Gawker media.
Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, was re-elected to the board during the social media giant’s annual shareholder conference, which was attended by about 100 investors. Critics of Thiel’s actions are concerned that a precedent is being set, where billionaires can fund lawsuits against media entities that they view as unfavorable.
Thiel got more votes than every other member of the board except for Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix.
During the meeting, Zuckerberg re-iterated his defense of free speech, stating that; “the answer to hateful speech or negative speech is more speech and positive speech.” Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, recently defended Thiel’s actions against Gawker, stating that, “Peter did what he did on his own, not as a Facebook board member.”
In August 2004, Thiel became Facebook’s first institutional investor when he committed $500,000 to the company for a little more than a 10 percent stake. Thiel joined the board in April 2005, and has been on ever since. In December 2007, Gawker published a story with the headline “Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay, People.” Close friends told Forbes that the story left a mark, and likely was part of his motivation in going after Gawker. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Thiel called Gawker, a “singularly terrible bully.”
Reports emerged of Thiel’s efforts to bring down Gawker after the media group lost a $140 million lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea, who is known by most as the wrestler, Hulk Hogan. Bollea claimed that Gawker violated his privacy when it published a sex tape showing him engaging in sexual intercourse with Heather Cole, the then-wife of his best friend, Tampa Bay radio personality, Bubba the Love Sponge.
Gawker media recently filed for bankruptcy and agreed to sell itself to digital publisher, Ziff Davis.
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