For reasons that still remain a bit unclear, the idea of breaking up large tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon has became a popular talking point for a few Democratic presidential candidates this year. With respect to Facebook in particular, Senator Elizabeth Warren has been championing a plan that would see regulators rollback a number of Facebook’s more notable acquisitions, including its $1 billion purchase of Instagram and its $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren said in a widely circulated blog post this past March. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”
Without getting into the strength of Warren’s argument — or its deficiencies, depending on your perspective — it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Facebook has been quite wary of Warren’s plan. What’s more, there have been reports that Facebook in recent months has even abandoned a few acquisitions as to prevent further scrutiny.
In light of that, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a leaked audio clip obtained by The Verge, said that Facebook would be willing to fight should Warren ultimately become president.
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.
The audio itself was obtained via a Q&A session Zuckerberg held with Facebook employees.
Zuckerberg also intimated that breaking up big tech companies likely won’t accomplish anything of substance.
It’s just that breaking up these companies, whether it’s Facebook or Google or Amazon, is not actually going to solve the issues. 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.
As Zuckerberg’s internal comments began to circulate, it didn’t take long for Warren to respond via Twitter.
“What would really ‘suck,’ Warren said, “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.”
Notably, Warren is so intent on battling it out with big tech that it’s become a key talking point for her campaign and even occupies its own section on her election website.