In late 2019, during one of Mark Zuckerberg’s many trips to Washington to defend Facebook in front of Congress, he stopped for a private dinner with Donald Trump and offered the president a titillating statistic. “I’d like to congratulate you,” Zuckerberg said. “You’re No. 1 on Facebook.”
At least that’s the story as told by Trump, on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in January. Trump is technically not the top politician by followers on Facebook. That would be former President Barack Obama. But as the country’s most powerful newsmaker and the person in charge of a government that’s been aggressively pursuing antitrust cases against big tech companies, he does have leverage over Zuckerberg. So the chief executive officer could be forgiven for flattering Trump. Any moment that the president is happy with Facebook is a moment he’s not pursuing hostile regulation—or more likely, sparking a bad news cycle.