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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

Updated 9 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker