Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg after after being asked about Buttigieg as a politician as they walk into the St. Joseph County Juvenile Justice Center during a surprise visit to South Bend, Ind., Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Michael Caterina | South Bend Tribune | AP
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has privately made hiring recommendations to presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, the Indiana Democrat’s campaign confirmed Monday, revealing that the Big Tech executive has played a larger role in the 2020 election than was previously known.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recommended two individuals earlier this year who were ultimately hired, campaign spokesman Chris Meagher said. The recommendations came “around the launch when we were getting a ton of incoming resumes,” Meagher wrote in a text message, confirming a report by Bloomberg News.
The suggestions are notable because they come amid heightened scrutiny on the social media platform. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic contender, has threatened to break up the company and other technology giants, while conservatives have accused Zuckerberg of censoring right-wing voices.
Facebook has been accused of providing a platform for disinformation during the last presidential election, and has been criticized for refusing to remove ads for President Donald Trump’s reelection that include false information.
The company has said it is taking measures to respond to the criticism. Zuckerberg is expected to testify on Wednesday to House lawmakers about Facebook’s impact on the financial services and housing sectors.
Buttigieg has criticized Facebook and the other Big Tech platforms, though he has not gone as far as Warren. In April, Buttigieg said that he would empower the FTC to take on a heightened regulatory role when it came to Facebook and the other platforms.
The two individuals Zuckerberg and his wife recommended are now on staff, according to Meagher. Both of their roles appear to include working with technology. Eric Mayefsky works as senior digital analytics advisor and Nina Wornhoff serves as organizing data manager.
Wornhoff joined the campaign in April after working as a machine learning engineer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, according to her LinkedIn page. Mayefsky joined in June after working as the director of data science at Quora. He previously worked at Facebook from 2010 to 2013, his LinkedIn profile says.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, we’ve built a top-tier operation with more than 430 staff in South Bend and around the country,” Meagher said in a statement provided to Bloomberg. “The staffers come from all types of background, and everyone is working hard every day to elect Pete to the White House.”
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, has performed well among donors in Silicon Valley since unofficially launching his presidential bid in January.
His connections to Zuckerberg stretch back to his college years: Buttigieg attended Harvard University at the same time that Zuckerberg was building what would become Facebook from his dorm room. Buttigieg ultimately became the 287th user of the platform. The two met years later when introduced by a mutual friend, according to Bloomberg.
Zuckerberg livestreamed a 2017 tour as Buttigieg drove him around South Bend.
A personal spokesman for Zuckerberg and Chan said that colleagues of the couple requested the recommendations.
“Having seen Mark’s visit to South Bend in 2017 and Facebook Live with Mayor Buttigieg, colleagues later asked Mark and Priscilla to connect them with the Buttigieg campaign as they were interested in joining,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.
He noted that the couple had not yet decided on a candidate to support.
Facebook did not respond to a CNBC request for comment.