In internal discussions with employees leaked to the media, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reveals how the social media giant would respond if U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is elected president and her ambitious steps to break up big tech companies like Facebook move ahead.
"[I]f she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge," Zuckerberg says in audio leaked to The Verge and published Tuesday. "And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government.
"But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight."
The Massachusetts Democrat has labeled Facebook and other tech companies as monopolies that "hurt small businesses and innovation." As part of her proposal, unveiled in March, she says she'd appoint regulators "committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers" like Facebook's purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram.
Warren, who's made standing up to corporations a key part of her White House candidacy, jumped at the chance Tuesday to respond to Zuckerberg's leaked comments, tweeting: "What would really 'suck' is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy."
Zuckerberg, for his part, seemed unperturbed by the leak, posting a link to The Verge article on his own Facebook page and writing: "[Y]ou can check it out if you're interested in seeing an unfiltered version of what I'm thinking and telling employees on a bunch of topics."
The Facebook CEO, in the leaked audio, also disagrees with Warren's plan to break up big tech firms on the merits. "[B]reaking up these companies, whether it’s Facebook or Google or Amazon, is not actually going to solve the issues," he said. "And, you know, it doesn’t make election interference less likely. It makes it more likely because now the companies can’t coordinate and work together."
The Verge says it obtained two hours of audio from employee meetings with Zuckerberg in July. That same month, Facebook agreed to a record-breaking $5 billion penalty from the Federal Trade Commission for its privacy practices.
The FTC is also investigating the social media giant for potential antitrust violations.