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Mark Zuckerberg owes Bill Gates a big debt of gratitude: The Microsoft co-founder told Zuckerberg to learn from Gates' own mistakes in the 1990s and pay careful attention to Washington, D.C.
Gates has become a mentor for the Facebook founder, according to a recent article in The New Yorker about Zuckerberg. Not only did both men drop out of Harvard to pursue their own companies, they both found themselves testifying in Congress over their company's actions.
Gates, who appeared in front of the Senate 20 years ago over antitrust issues, recalled that his defiant tone — he told the senators "the computer-software industry is not broken, and there is no need to fix it" — caused him three years of lawsuits fighting the Department of Justice.
So Gates told Zuckerberg to be mindful of Washington.
"I said, 'Get an office there — now,'" Gates said. "And Mark did, and he owes me."
Despite answering dozens of questions, Zuckerberg was able to maintain the upper hand during his Senate testimonies. Many of the prompts didn't go into user privacy rights, and some revealed the politicians were not familiar with how the company worked. One senator asked about sending emails on WhatsApp, which the platform doesn't allow, while another inquired about how Facebook made money. Zuckerberg famously replied, "Senator, we run ads."
Facebook spent $11.5 million lobbying politicians last year.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how much Facebook spent on lobbying.