Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was caught threatening to launch a lawsuit if Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren moved forward with plans to break up the company as president.
The comments made during a July meeting with Facebook employees captured on tape and obtained by The Verge illustrate Zuckerberg’s thinking on a wide range of topics, from how the Facebook executive plans to defeat TikTok and why he wants to maintain absolute control of the company. But it was the tech entrepreneur’s comments related to Warren that were the most explosive, garnering national headlines and a response from the top-tier 2020 Democratic White House hopeful.
“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 be that we will win the legal challenge,” Zuckerberg said during a question and answer period on the tape.
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 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.
Zuckerberg has openly invited government regulation of his company, provided it’s the “right regulations.” Big companies find big government of the kind Warren would preside over to be compatible with their interests because their army of lawyers and lobbyists can swarm government offices and give large donations to push for their interests. The real way to get rid of corporate influence in Washington is to dramatically reduce the size of government. The bigger it is, the more power rich people like Zuckerberg have.
The 35-year-old tech executive traveled to Washington D.C. last month and met with President Donald Trump and several prominent lawmakers. Facebook has come under heightened scrutiny along with the other Silicone Valley tech giants while the private enterprises continue to grow in size and influence.
The rising power of big tech has prompted concern among policymakers worried about user privacy, anti-competitive market practices, foreign election interference, and free speech, prompting many in Washington and on the campaign trail to talk a big game about cracking down on the large companies.
Zuckerberg however, has defended Facebook’s size, noting that the very thing lawmakers like Warren want to change is actually helping the company combat election interference by foreign governments.
“It’s why Twitter can’t do as good of a job as we can,” Zuckerberg said on the audio recording released today. “I mean, they face, qualitatively, the same types of issues. But they can’t put in the investment. Our investment on safety is bigger than the whole revenue of their company.”
Warren, who has made going after large corporations a central theme of her populist campaign, responded to Zuckerberg Tuesday with a series of posts on Twitter.
“Imagine Facebook and Instagram trying to outdo each other to protect your privacy and keep misinformation out of your feed, instead of working together to sell your data, inundate you with misinformation, and undermine our election security,” Warren wrote on Twitter.
Imagine Facebook and Instagram trying to outdo each other to protect your privacy and keep misinformation out of your feed, instead of working together to sell your data, inundate you with misinformation, and undermine our election security. That's why we need to #BreakUpBigTech.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 1, 2019
Earlier this year, Facebook was slapped with a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling consumer data, the largest fine ever handed to a tech company from a federal agency.
The urge to break up Silicone Valley’s tech giants is not a partisan one, and has brought together unlikely allies although many often disagree on both tech’s problems and the solutions. Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, for example, has been one of the leading Republicans in the Senate to advocate new federal regulation aimed at breaking up large tech corporations.
Throughout the summer, Hawley proposed a series of bills to curb the influence of tech giants such as Facebook by sponsoring bills that would prohibit certain features on the platform along with other social media sites and eliminate liability protections for user content. Neither piece of legislation is expected to pass.