Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted to employees that the prospect of an Elizabeth Warren presidency could “suck” for the company, according to leaked audio published by The Verge.
“You have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies,” Zuckerberg said in a meeting with Facebook employees this summer, according to the audio obtained by The Verge. “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.”
He added: “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.”
According to The Verge, the audio comes from two open meetings Zuckerberg held with Facebook employees in July, the same month it agreed to pay an unprecedented $5 billion penalty in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over its handling of users’ personal data. The audio included question and answer sessions with Zuckerberg.
In a Facebook post responding to the leaked audio, Zuckerberg acknowledged the authenticity of the comments reported by The Verge.
“The transcript from one of my Q&As a few months ago just got published online,” he said. “And even though it was meant to be internal rather than public, now that it’s out there, you can check it out if you’re interested in seeing an unfiltered version of what I’m thinking and telling employees on a bunch of topics.”
Warren also responded to the leaked remarks. “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 tweeted on Tuesday in response to Zuckerberg’s comments.
The audio offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at how Zuckerberg discusses Facebook’s regulatory troubles inside the company’s walls, rather than in press interviews and public testimony before Congress.
Facebook now faces antitrust probes from the FTC and from eight states and the District of Columbia. The House Judiciary Committee is conducting a “top-to-bottom” antitrust probe of Big Tech, including Facebook. And multiple Democratic presidential candidates, including Warren, have called for greater scrutiny of tech companies and potentially even breaking them up.
Earlier this year, Warren released an aggressive plan to break up tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. The far-reaching proposal would impose new rules on certain kinds of tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual revenue. It also aims to undo major mergers in the industry, such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp and Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.
In the leaked audio, Zuckerberg said he’s against breaking up big tech companies, and that doing so won’t “actually solve the issues.” He also said it would make election interference more likely because then companies couldn’t coordinate and work together.
In explaining why he thinks being bigger is better, Zuckerberg also threw shade at Facebook’s smaller rival Twitter (TWTR).
“It’s why Twitter can’t do as good of a job as we can. I mean, they face, qualitatively, the same types of issues,” he said. “But they can’t put in the investment. Our investment on safety is bigger than the whole revenue of their company.”
“It’s not about money, it’s about getting the work done and solving problems for the people we serve,” Brandon Borrman, a spokesperson for Twitter, said in a tweet Tuesday. “Mark clearly thinks differently. Keeping people safe and secure is in our shared interest as an industry and we ALL have more to do.”
CNN Business’ Donie O’Sullivan and Hadas Gold contributed to this report