Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he’s ready to “go to the mat and ... fight” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other politicians who have called for big tech companies to be broken up, and predicted the social media giant will prevail even if Warren wins the presidency in 2020.
“There might be a political movement where people are angry at the tech companies or are worried about concentration or worried about different issues and worried that they’re not being handled well,” Zuckerberg told Facebook employees in Q&A sessions in July, according to leaked audio recordings published by The Verge on Tuesday. “That doesn’t mean that, even if there’s anger and that you have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies. I mean, if 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.”
Does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. I mean, that’s not the position that you want to be in … It’s like, we care about our country and want to work with our government and do good things. 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.
Warren responded to the disclosure by reiterating her plan to break up tech giants, tweeting Tuesday: “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.”
Warren has called for big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon to be broken up, warning of their threats to competition, privacy and free speech.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power ― too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else,” Warren wrote in March. “We need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.”
Several other Democratic candidates have taken similar positions, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has said she would “seriously take a look at” breaking up Facebook, calling it “essentially a utility that has gone unregulated.”
Part of Warren’s plan would involve more regulation of “anti-competitive mergers,” like Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.
“Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market ― which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy,” Warren said in March.
According to the leaked audio, Zuckerberg reassured employees that “the rule of law” is on Facebook’s side. He said “the case is not particularly strong” against the company, arguing that election interference and the spread of hate speech could be “more likely” if social media giants were “more fragmented.”