Booker jabs at Warren's Facebook plan, Harris says breakup worth examining

Booker said Warren's call to split up Facebook "sounds more like a Donald Trump thing to say."
Image: Senator Cory Booker
Cory Booker speaks at the North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) 2019 legislative conference in Washington on April 10, 2019.Yuri Gripas / Reuters file

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By Allan Smith

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., weighed in Sunday on whether they think Facebook should be broken up by the government in light of a co-founder saying this week that the company lacked accountability and should be split.

The Democratic presidential contenders were asked Sunday if they would go as far as their 2020 competitor Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has called for the government to break up Facebook and other tech giants, pledging that her administration would do so should she be elected.

Booker said on ABC's "This Week" that if he is elected, his Justice Department would use anti-trust law "to do the proper investigations and hold industries accountable for corporate consolidation." But he added that he doesn't "think that a president should be running around pointing at companies and saying 'breaking them up' without any kind of process here."

Warren's call "sounds more like a Donald Trump thing to say, like, 'I'm going to break up you guys' ... no," Booker said.

"We need to create systems and processes," he added.

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When pressed on his remark about Warren, Booker said he "most certainly did not" compare her with Trump, adding that the Massachusetts senator is his "friend."

"Let her discuss her positions," he said. "I'm telling you right now we do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we will break up. We need a president that's going to enforce anti-trust laws in this country, and I will be that person."

A spokesperson for Warren did not immediately return a request for comment from NBC News. In a Medium post she authored calling for the breakup of big tech, Warren said the government needed to do so to "restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Harris went further than Booker in calling for action. Asked if Facebook should be broken up, Harris said, "Yes, I think we have to seriously take a look at that, yes."

"I mean, when you look at the issue, they're essentially a utility," she said. "Like, there are very few people that can actually get by and be involved in their communities or society or in whatever their profession without somehow, somewhere using Facebook."

"It is essentially a utility that has gone unregulated," Harris added. "And as far as I'm concerned, that's got to stop.”

The line of questioning came after Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes called on the government to break up the company in a New York Times op-ed.

“The Facebook that exists today is not the Facebook that we founded in 2004,” Hughes, who started Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in their Harvard dorm, told NBC News last week.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, responded to Hughes in a statement saying the company "accepts that with success comes accountability."

"But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company," Clegg said. "Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work.”