Some people think Facebook has grown so big that the government should step in and break the company up. Not surprisingly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not one of those people.
The Facebook founder has argued before that Facebook isn’t a monopoly because it has a lot of competitors. But now Zuckerberg has another argument: Breaking up Facebook would be bad for America because it would clear the way for Chinese tech companies — which don’t have traditional American values — to step in and dominate.
“I think you have this question from a policy perspective, which is, ‘Do we want American companies to be exporting across the world?’” Zuckerberg said to Recode Editor at Large Kara Swisher on this week’s Recode Decode podcast. “I think that the alternative, frankly, is going to be the Chinese companies.
“I think you can bet that, if the government here is worried about — whether it’s election interference or terrorism — I don’t think Chinese companies are going to want to cooperate as much and aid the national interest there,” he continued.
Zuckerberg also argued that Facebook’s size — the company has about 2.2 billion users and generated almost $40 billion in revenue last year — is thanks in large part to its international business and not its U.S. business.
“We’re not big because we’re big in the United States,” Zuckerberg said. “If we weren’t an international company — if you just said, ‘Okay, you have to shut down all of your services outside the U.S.’ — we actually would not be very profitable at all. We actually would probably be unprofitable.
“The reason why we are a successful and large company is because we have built something here that can serve billions of people around the world as well, which is actually where the margin comes from,” he continued. “Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of revenue in the United States as well, but that would barely cover the costs of the company.”
Of course, Facebook — which owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — is big in the United States. Roughly 50 percent of its revenue in 2017 came from U.S. and Canadian users, who are nearly three times more valuable to Facebook than users in Europe, and more than nine times more valuable than those in the Asia-Pacific.
That’s just on the business front. If you look at influence, Facebook is enormously impactful as a news distributor in the U.S. The influence is so strong that we’ve spent much of the past 18 months discussing whether or not Facebook could have swayed a U.S. presidential election.
Zuckerberg argued that outsized influence actually supports his claims, saying that limiting Facebook’s global scope might put American values at stake.
“If we adopt a stance which is that, okay, we’re going to, as a country, decide that we’re going to clip the wings of these [American] companies and make it so that it’s harder for them to operate in different places or they have to be smaller, then there are plenty of other companies out there that are willing and able to take the place of the work that we’re doing,” he said, specifically suggesting Chinese tech companies as the replacements. “And they do not share the values that we have.”
It’s an interesting argument, in part because it plays directly into President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra. Why purposely weaken a strong American company at the risk of losing that market share to someone in China?
It’s still unlikely that Facebook would actually be broken up anytime soon. The idea started to gain steam earlier this year when Zuckerberg first testified before Congress about the company’s data policies, and outside groups have pushed for the Federal Trade Commission to explore breaking up the social giant. But it’s unclear if, when or how anything more formal might actually take shape.
Not coincidentally, the place where Facebook feels most threatened is also the place Facebook does not currently operate. The social network is still banned in China, and has been for years, a fact that enabled potential competitors — like WeChat — to thrive.
“We’re a long time away from doing anything [in China],” Zuckerberg said.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.