Regulate Us, Just Don’t Break Us Up – Mark Zuckerberg Tells U.S. Government
Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg published his annual personal challenge Thursday — this time training his focus not just on the next 12 months, but on the next 10 years. His goals range from philanthropy to augmented reality glasses, but Zuckerberg saved the weightiest question for last: How should the government regulate his company?
A wave of critics, including presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren to Facebook’s own cofounder Chris Hughes have argued the best way to regulate the social network is to break it up — specifically, roll back the $20 billion-dollar acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram. Attorney generals from nearly every state have joined a New York-led antitrust investigation of Facebook, which began in September.
Zuckerberg chose not to address the idea of breaking his company in his annual note. Instead, he repeated calls for some regulation from the government:
“As long as our governments are seen as legitimate, rules established through a democratic process could add more legitimacy and trust than rules defined by companies alone. There are a number of areas where I believe governments establishing clearer rules would be helpful, including around elections, harmful content, privacy, and data portability. I’ve called for new regulation in these areas and over the next decade I hope we get clearer rules for the internet.”Today In: Billionaires
Facebook has publicly backed some legislation that would regulate its own operations, including a law that would require social media sites to disclose who bought online political campaign ads.
Privately, Zuckerberg has told employees Facebook would fight hard if lawmakers tried to break up the company. In October, The Verge published leaked transcripts and audio recordings of internal meetings that Zuckerberg had with his employees during the summer of 2019. One of the employees asked him whether he was concerned about regulators coming in to break up Facebook, especially if Warren wins the presidency. His answer was much less accommodating at the time.
“I mean, if [Warren] 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,” Zuckerberg said, according to the transcripts. “And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our government … 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 and threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
Zuckerberg has taken other measures to convince lawmakers to keep his company intact. In October, Zuckerberg and Facebook board member Peter Thiel had dinner with President Donald Trump at the White House in October, though neither parties disclosed what was discussed. The company’s lobbying spending has also increased every year since 2016, according to data from OpenSecrets. But with antitrust investigations underway and the possibility of a new president who seems hellbent on picking Facebook apart, his 2020 goals could be a lot harder than his previous resolutions, which included learning Mandarin or traveling to 30 states to meet new people, feed cows and hold barn kittens as part of a “listening tour.”