Mark Zuckerberg has promised to “go to the mat and fight” Elizabeth Warren over her pledge to break up Facebook and other large technology companies if she becomes president, warning that such a plan would pose an “existential” threat to the company.
Mr Zuckerberg made the remarks in July during an open staff meeting at which the Facebook chief executive spoke candidly about a range of political issues confronting the company. They were recorded by someone attending the meeting and published on Tuesday by The Verge website.
The recordings show the level of unease caused by Ms Warren’s promise to break up Google, Facebook and Amazon if she wins the 2020 presidential election.
Mr Zuckerberg said: “You have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies.
“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. 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.”
Ms Warren responded on Tuesday shortly after the recordings were published, tweeting: “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anti-competitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”
She then reposted her plan to break up large technology companies, which proposes appointing regulators that are committed to undoing Facebook’s mergers with WhatsApp and Instagram.
She said she would also seek to unpick Amazon’s acquisitions of Whole Foods and Zappos, as well as Google’s purchases of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.
Large technology companies have become the target of a host of potential antitrust challenges. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have launched their own probes into various companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google, while state attorneys-general are also looking specifically at Facebook and Google.
Until recently, Ms Warren’s plans have not seemed to pose an immediate threat as she had trailed well behind Joe Biden in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee.
But recent polls have shown Ms Warren picking up support and overtaking Mr Biden in some of the early voting states and also nationally.
The Facebook recordings also show Mr Zuckerberg being quizzed on a range of issues the company faces, from his refusal to testify before parliamentary inquiries around the world to the regulatory roadblocks confronting Libra, the cryptocurrency it aims to launch.
On the hearings, he said: “I’m not going to go to every single hearing around the world. A lot of different people want to do that. When the issues came up last year around Cambridge Analytica, I did hearings in the US. I did hearings in the EU. It just doesn’t really make sense for me to go to hearings in every single country that wants to have me show up.”
He struck an optimistic note on the chances of overcoming regulators’ resistance to Libra, saying: “The public things, I think, tend to be a little more dramatic. But a bigger part of it is private engagement with regulators around the world, and those, I think, often, are more substantive and less dramatic.
“And those meetings aren’t being played for the camera, but that’s where a lot of the discussions and details get hashed out on things.”
Facebook declined to comment on the recordings.
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