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Mark Zuckerberg sees how antitrust enforcement might look under an Elizabeth Warren presidency, and he’s ready for a legal battle if she wants to break up his company.
“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,” the Facebook CEO told employees in July meetings, ofwhich transcripts were just published by The Verge. “And does that still suck for us? Yeah.”
The Facebook co-founder and CEO made the comments during a pair of staff meetings, where he fielded questions from employees on the troubled rollout of the Facebook cryptocurrency Libra, a rising competitor in TikTok, and his own unchecked power within the company.
But the executive’s comments on a leading 2020 Democratic candidate stand out at a time when Washington has dialed up the heat. As Congress ramped up a web of inquiries into Big Tech in recent months, Warren has surged in the polls in part by arguing for new checks on corporate power. That includes a plan to break up Silicon Valley giants like Facebook.
Warren doesn’t appear fazed by the prospect of a huge legal battle. Soon after The Verge reported Zuckerberg’s remarks Tuesday, the Massachusetts Democrat took aim at his company on Twitter.
“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,” she wrote, linking to her campaign website and fundraising page.
Many Silicon Valley honchos have argued that breaking up tech companies would make problems like user privacy harder to solve. Zuckerberg, whose company acquired Instagram and WhatsApp in moves that are now being scrutinized by federal regulators, panned the idea in his July meetings.
“It’s just that breaking 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. It doesn’t make any of the hate speech or issues like that less likely. It makes it more likely because now ... all the processes that we’re putting in place and investing in, now we’re more fragmented.”
“It’s why Twitter can’t do as good of a job as we can,” he added. “Our investment on safety is bigger than the whole revenue of their company.”
Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, and Apple have already spent more than $26 million this year to shape potential regulations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Zuckerberg himself went to Washington last month to add his personal touch to this lobbying push.
And for all the talk of antitrust enforcement by Warren and other lawmakers, Facebook may have a larger warchest for any legal battle than federal agencies. Zuckerberg doesn’t appear afraid to use it.
“I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government,” he told employees in July. “I mean, that’s not the position that you want to be in when you’re, you know, I mean … 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.”
Cover: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in San Jose, California, on April 30, 2019. (Kyodo via AP Images) ==Kyodo