It’s been 27 days since Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR and former Facebook golden child, has been seen or heard from publicly.
On September 23rd, Luckey issued this statement on his funding of and involvement in Nimble America, a pro-Trump, anti-Hillary Clinton political advocacy group with the stated mission of proving “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Palmer said he donated $10,000 to the group because he “thought the organisation had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters” but said his actions do not represent Oculus, the company Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014. He also said he planned to vote for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
And then... poof, smoke bomb, Palmer went bye bye.
Luckey didn’t even make an appearance at Oculus VR’s third annual developer’s conference in San Jose earlier this month. Virtual reality developers have threatened to pull support for Oculus as long as Luckey is involved with the company, and Oculus representatives have been pleading with developers to stay on the platform.
I had a hard time getting anyone from Facebook or Oculus to say anything at all about Palmer at the conference, where he’s been a central figure in previous years. Luckey’s gone silent on Twitter and Facebook, too. Maybe his phone is broken?
The more likely explanation is that Facebook’s PR machine has either ordered or supported Luckey’s disappearance. As a developer told me in San Jose, the silence on this is “deafening.”
Facebook’s non-response is also in stark contrast to its other election year headache, board member and vocal Trump supporter Peter Thiel. Mark Zuckerberg defended Thiel in an internal memo earlier this week, saying the company cares deeply about diversity and that there are many reasons someone might support Trump “that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault.” Thiel recently donated $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign.
Does Facebook’s tolerance for diversity extend to Palmer Luckey? Was his crime of donating to a shit-posting meme forum worse than Thiel’s support for Trump? Is the fact that developers are threatening to pull out of a platform Facebook spent $2 billion on a factor? We don’t know. We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment. Last week they were tight-lipped but told us Luckey still worked at the company.
For now, we’re just looking for him. It’s day 27...and counting.