Tech

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ready to take on government in leaked tapes

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg sought to rally employees amid a litany of challenges the social media company has faced over the past year and a half, speaking candidly in two hours of leaked audio recordings published by the Verge.

While Zuckerberg often got laughs and tried to create a friendly banter with employees, the mood inside the company remains anxious, the Verge reported.

Addressing questions raised at two open meetings with employees in July, Zuckerberg took on subjects from US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plans to break up the company if elected president, to the rocky rollout of Libra and a new product to compete with TikTok.

If Warren were to be elected, “then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge,” Zuckerberg said. “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 fight.”

Warren responded to the story in her own tweet. “I’m not afraid to hold Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon accountable,” she tweeted. “It’s time to #BreakUpBigTech.” 

The meetings took place after Facebook was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission, an amount largely seen as a slap on the wrist for the company, as was the settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $100 million. But the scandals over data privacy laid bare by the Cambridge Analytica affair, the near-constant critiques and demand for testimony at lengthy hearings in the US and Europe, and antitrust investigations on multiple fronts seem to have taken a toll. Employees had questions for Zuckerberg himself, and worried about Facebook’s increasingly dim reputation among their peers, according to the Verge.

Zuckerberg explained his decision on why he wouldn’t travel the world to testify in front of some foreign governments. “It just doesn’t make sense for me to go to hearings in every single country that wants to have me show up,” he said.

When asked about competition with TikTok, a popular video and social media app owned by China’s ByteDance Inc., Zuckerberg said Facebook has an answer. “We have a product called Lasso that’s a standalone app that we’re working on, trying to get product-market fit in countries like Mexico,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re trying to first see if we can get it to work in countries where TikTok isn’t already big before we go and compete with TikTok in countries where they are big.”

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