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A Facebook board member is launching 'weapons-grade attacks on America's free press,' and people are furious

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Ronnie Allen
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A billionaire board member of the world's most powerful media company has been using a fraction of his enormous wealth to try to take down a news website critical of him, anonymously funding lawsuits targeting the site.Peter Thiel, the influential Silicon Valley investor and cofounder of PayPal, acknowledged this week that he was the mystery financial backer funding wrestler Hulk Hogan's attempts to sue the snarky news and gossip blog Gawker into oblivion over a sex tape.The fiercely libertarian, Donald Trump-supporting billionaire sits on the board of Facebook, the social-media platform where more than a billion people access and consume news on a daily basis.People are now wondering whether this will have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to speak sometimes disrespectfully truth to power.Thiel's ire with Gawker stems from an article outing him as gay titled "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people" , as well as others that he says "ruined people s lives for no reason."

"Plenty of journalists think otherwise.Peter Thiel is going 'thermonuclear'Over at Fusion, Felix Salmon pulls no punches, accusing Thiel of "reinventing the concept of philanthropy so as to include weapons-grade attacks on America's free press."

It makes decisions about what 1.09 billion people see and how they access news on a daily basis.

""Facebook already has absurd economic influence on press," Jeffery tweeted.And now one of the key mentors to Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is waging war on a single website to deliberately stop certain types of coverage: "It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence," Thiel told The Times.So far, Zuckerberg has stayed quiet on the issue.

But it looks as if others on Facebook's board are sympathetic to Thiel: Marc Andreessen, a fellow board member, has retweeted multiple messages in support of the PayPal cofounder.One of Andreessen's colleagues, Benedict Evans, who is a partner at Andreessen's venture-capital group, Andreessen Horowitz, retweeted a tweet praising Thiel as a "hero, truly admirable work."

Billionaires already routinely — and successfully — use the law to censor the press, but their activities are usually limited to specific stories about them.

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Ronnie Allen
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