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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg candidly addressed a number of questions about his company, such as the threat of a government breakup of Big Tech companies from 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren, during an open meeting with employees, per leaked audio obtained by the Verge.

"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 other side: Warren responded to Zuckerberg's leaked comments, tweeting, "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."

The big picture: Facebook had a few recent wins after settling cases with regulators and posting solid quarterly earnings. "But inside the company, the mood remains anxious" about its future, writes the Verge.

  • The company is at the center of the Big Tech backlash with calls to regulate it or break it up, most notably from Warren. Zuckerberg toured D.C. recently to meet with top lawmakers.

What Zuckerberg is saying: In the audio, he joked repeatedly that he would've been fired as CEO a long time ago if he hadn't negotiated for control of the company.

  • On breaking up Big Tech: "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."
  • On declining to testify in other countries: "When the issues came up last year around Cambridge Analytica, I did hearings in the U.S. I did hearings in the EU. It just doesn't really make sense for me to go to hearings in every single country that wants to have me show up."
  • On Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project: "The public things, I think, tend to be a little more dramatic. But a bigger part of it is private engagement with regulators around the world, and those, I think, often, are more substantive and less dramatic. And those meetings aren't being played for the camera, but that's where a lot of the discussions and details get hashed out on things."

Go deeper: Top regulators battle to crack down on Big Tech giants

Go deeper

16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Hundreds of Biden staffers receive COVID vaccine

Screenshots of an email inviting White House staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, obtained by Alayna Treene/Axios

A week into the job, President Biden's White House medical team has administered the coronavirus vaccine to several hundred staffers — and aims to vaccinate all in-person staff over the next few weeks, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The new administration is ramping up steps to protect President Biden and all staff working inside the White House complex. The administration is also requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The Leon Black clock strikes midnight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leon Black is "retiring" as CEO of Apollo Global Management, the alternative investment giant he has led since co-founding it in 1990. But he is not making a full break, as Black will remain chair of Apollo's board of directors.

Why it matters: This is the culmination of 18 months of head-in-the-sand obfuscation of Black's dealings with Jeffrey Epstein.

Reddit traders look to pummel Wall Street's old guard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reddit traders are taking on Wall Street pros at their own game with this basic mantra: Stocks will always go up.

Why it matters: Their trades — egged on in Reddit threads — have played a role in historic market activity in recent days.