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Bill Gates says Mark Zuckerberg 'owes' him for DC advice

From one Harvard dropout to another: Be mindful of Washington. That's according to a New Yorker profile of the Facebook CEO.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At Joint Senate Commerce/Judiciary Hearing
Bill Gates says he advised Mark Zuckerberg to be mindful of Washington politicians, a lesson that apparently paid off for the Facebook CEO.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Bill Gates says Mark Zuckerberg "owes" him for some valuable advice the Microsoft co-founder gave the Facebook co-founder.

Gates, who's become a bit of a mentor and role model for Zuckerberg, both in business and philanthropy, advised his fellow Harvard dropout to be alert to the opinions of lawmakers, according to a profile of Zuckerberg published Monday by The New Yorker. This was a painful lesson Gates learned 20 years ago when the federal government accused the software giant of monopolistic behavior.

Back then, Gates defiantly told Congress that "the computer-software industry is not broken, and there is no need to fix it." But the Justice Department wasn't impressed with Gates' testimony and within months sued Microsoft for antitrust violations, leading to years of legal wrangling and the near breakup of his company.

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Gates told The New Yorker he regretted "taunting" regulators and encouraged Zuckerberg to be mindful of Washington goings-on.

"I said, 'Get an office there -- now,'" Gates said. "And Mark did, and he owes me."

The advice apparently paid off for Zuckerberg in April when the Facebook CEO was called to account for data privacy lapses at his company. Facebook is a large, often secretive company that many have difficulty understanding, and Congress has toyed with the idea of regulating Facebook and other social media networks.

Although many of the questions came from tech-challenged senators, Zuckerberg patiently and respectfully addressed questions about how Facebook makes its money and how the internet works.

Zuckerberg's appearance was widely regarded as a win for Facebook, which may help explain why the company spent more than $11.5 million lobbying Congress last year.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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