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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a presidential primary candidate, responded Tuesday to leaked audio of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowing to "fight" against her plan to break up tech giants. (Photos: Pete Marovich/Getty Images; Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

'Does Anyone Think That's a Bad Thing?': Leaked Zuckerberg Audio Suggests Warren Vow to Break Up Facebook Has Tech Giant Spooked

"I'm not afraid to hold Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon accountable," tweeted the 2020 candidate on Tuesday. "It's time to #BreakUpBigTech."

Jessica Corbett

Sen. Elizabeth Warren doubled down on her promise to break up Big Tech firms after text and audio leaked Tuesday from private meetings in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to "fight" against the Democratic White House hopeful's plan to address antitrust concerns created by major technology companies.

"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."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren

The Verge on Tuesday published Zuckerberg's comments, which were recorded during a pair of internal Facebook meetings in July. Though the tech executive addressed a range of topics—from worries about Facebook's cryptocurrency Libra and its competitor TikTok to content moderation and brain-computer interface—the outlet front-loaded his remarks on Warren.

A Facebook employee asked Zuckerberg, "With the recent [FTC] fine, investigation, and with the rise of politicians like Sen. Warren, I was wondering how personally worried you are about regulators coming in and breaking up Facebook?"

"I'm certainly more worried that someone is going to try to break up our company," Zuckerberg said, before expressing his appreciation that the United States has "a really solid rule of law" that he believes will block the Massachusetts Democrat's plan, which would target not only Facebook but also tech giants like Amazon and Google.

Zuckerberg continued: 

So 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. 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. And 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 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.

Warren, responding in a pair of tweets Tuesday morning, called out Facebook's behavior of various fronts and shared a link to her plan for "How We Can Break Up Big Tech," which she unveiled in March.

"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," wrote Warren. "I'm not afraid to hold Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon accountable. It's time to #BreakUpBigTech."

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy and communications at the advocacy group Free Press, also responded on Twitter to Zuckerberg's comments about Warren.

Karr concluded from the reporting that the Democratic presidential primary candidate "strikes fear into the hearts of Mark Zuckerberg and Wall Street billionaires." He asked: "Does anyone think that's a bad thing? Anyone?"

Warren's plan targeting tech firms has won widespread praise—including from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who wrote in March that "we're now in a second Gilded Age—ushered in by semiconductors, software and, the internet—which has spawned a handful of hi-tech behemoths and a new set of barons like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page."

"Like the robber barons of the first Gilded Age, those of the second have amassed fortunes because of their monopolies—fortunes that give them unparalleled leverage over politicians and the economy," Reich added. "In this new Gilded Age, we need to respond to them as forcefully as we did the first time around. Warren's ideas are a good start."


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