Mark Zuckerberg had a choice to make this week.
The Facebook CEO could either go to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, along with nearly every other marquee CEO from the tech industry, or skip it and prepare for a Chicago rally for people who’d created social-support groups on Facebook.
Zuckerberg, who loudly criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords in early June, chose the latter. Facebook was alone among the five most-valuable U.S. tech firms in not sending a top executive to the White House meeting.
At that same meeting, a top official from Facebook’s chief rival—Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt — sat at the table with Trump and praised the President’s pro-business agenda, saying it would create “big opportunities” for U.S. firms.
The contrast between the two companies, which together dominate digital advertising, is stark when it comes to U.S. government relations.
Both companies are on the defensive in Europe, where their business and legal practices are under attack, accused of not doing enough to stop the spread of terrorism or protect the privacy of EU citizens.
Google also faces a fine that could top €1 billion after the EU said it used its search monopoly to favor its own shopping services in search results.
While Google’s Schmidt softened up Trump with praise, Zuckerberg’s snub could make it harder to enlist the administration’s help as the pressure gets turned up in European capitals.
In a sign of how seriously Facebook is taking the current political climate in Europe, COO Sheryl Sandberg met Friday with the U.K. Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and highlighted the company’s efforts “to keep terrorists off Facebook.”
“We had a constructive meeting with the Home Secretary,” Sandberg said in a statement provided to CNBC, in response to a request for comment on the meeting.
Sandberg’s trip comes one week after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron said they would consider new laws to punish companies that refuse to remove content filled with all forms of hate speech, including terrorism.
Zuckerberg’s choice surely played well with the Facebook rank and file and with users who oppose Trump politically.
Whether it was good for Facebook shareholders—or risks relegating the company to a position behind Google in a line for the President’s ear—is less certain.
Mark Zuckerberg's snub of White House could backfire as Europe goes after US Internet giants