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When Facebook went public several years ago, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg instantly became one of the richest people on the planet. As an increasing number of the hyper-rich, does he promise to do something useful with all that wealth?
USA TODAY

When a software engineer employed by Facebook asked billionaire Mark Zuckerberg to comment on the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders's attitude that billionaires should not exist, employees began to laugh.

Facebook CEO and co-founder Zuckerberg also hummed after a moment's pause. Those attending Thursday's live-in-town hall-style meeting began applauding supportively.

"That's a good question … OK," Zuckerberg said.

In the response that followed, Zuckerberg – who, with a net worth of $ 67 billion by Forbes listed as the fourth richest American – said he was sympathetic to Sander's view of income inequality.

"I understand where he comes from," he said, noting that he couldn't set a threshold for how much wealth is too much.

"At some level, no one deserves to have that much money."

He went on to say that he sees potential benefits for some Americans' ability to accumulate even "unreasonable" amounts of wealth, too.

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He cited his own philanthropic promises as an example: Zuckerberg and his wife Dr Priscilla Chan has promised to give away 99% of Facebook shares during their lifetime.

Zuckerberg said that although critics may claim the charitable gifts of billionaires will benefit the nation more like tax dollars, he says his philanthropy is funding scientific research projects that are likely to be ignored by the government.

"I think the alternative would be for the government to choose all funding for all this," he commented.

"Part of what makes progress happen is that people take different approaches to different things," he went on to say.

The exchange happened on a weekly "internal question and answer" that was publicly broadcast live on Zuckerberg's Facebook page. Usually, the sessions are for employees only, but a previous question and answer increased headlines this week when Zuckerberg was heard saying in leaky sound that he would "go to the mat" to fight efforts aimed at breaking up the social networking giant.

It triggered a response from another Democratic president who was hopeful: Senator Elizabeth Warren, who defended her plan to break up big tech companies.

Zuckerberg was asked Thursday about Warren's plans and replied, "Let's try not to discourage her further."

Friday, Warren tweeted a video clip of the question and the start of Zuckerberg's answer.

"If Facebook finds my review uncomfortable , here's what Mark Zuckerberg and his team could work on, " Warren tweeted describing consumer privacy, ensuring that Facebook" does not undermine election security "and terminates" the company's illegal competitive practice. "

Contributor: Kelly Tyko, Jessica Guynn, Brett Molina

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