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Was Zuckerberg’s $100M Donation Timed to ‘The Social Network’?

Facebook CEO’s gift smacks of P.R. campaign to distract from film portrayal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to make a $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey public schools on Friday’s “Oprah,” capping off a week of education reform programming on Winfrey’s show.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker — ironically, a pioneering Twitter user — will accept the 26-year-old’s gift. (With a net worth of more than $6 billion, Zuckerberg shot past Steve Jobs on Forbes’ list of richest Americans.)

But the timing of Zuckerberg’s donation will draw plenty of attention from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. That’s because “The Social Network,” David Fincher’s buzzed-about movie that portrays Zuckerberg as “an insecure jerk who screws over people and becomes a much-richer insecure jerk,” comes out on the same day. According to a Media Memo review, it’s as brutal as advertised.

So is sudden generosity part of an anti-“Social Network” smokescreen, highly-orchestrated damage control for the face of Facebook?

Zuckerberg and co. claim it’s merely a coincidence, and that the plan was hatched when he met Booker at Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley mogulfest in July.

I don’t buy it.

According to Kara Swisher, Zuckerberg’s interest “was apparently sparked by watching the up-and-down experience of his longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan, whose first job out of college was as a teacher.” (In other words, it was more "Waiting For Superman" than "Social Network" that spurred on Zuck.)

That’s fine, but you can’t tell me that the Harvard dropout wasn’t thinking about softening the forthcoming blow of “The Social Network” on Oprah’s couch.