Facebook has had a rough couple of years but people calling for the scandal-ridden(data privacy and misinformation) social media giant to break up is kind of missing the point and there has to be a better solution than splitting it. Calls for the breaking up the company have been growing from US senators such as Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton, who told people to delete the Facebook app after his dramatic departure, and ex-Facebook cofounders.
There has been a new consensus among ex-Facebook co-founders have been on the forefront criticizing the very social media platform they built. From Dustin Moskovitz, Justin Rosenstein(led development of Facebook’s like button) who has warned about the negative effects of social media on individual psychology, Sean Parker(Facebook’s first president) now worries about the impact of social media on children, Chamath Palihapitiya(led Facebook’s all-important growth team in its early days) said people should take “a hard break” from social media while talking at a Stanford Graduate School of Business talk. The recent anti-Facebook sentiment is from Facebook ex-co-founder, Chris Hughes who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times where he renounced the company he helped to build. Here’s his profile if you didn’t know who he is.
His post was received well and not so well as people had mixed feelings.
👏👏👏 Bravo to @chrishughes co-founder of Facebook for stepping out to comprehensively and courageously argue why "It's Time to Break Up Facebook" in NYTimes. Chris has been such an important voice in the movement. https://t.co/XPJK1ZQzbR pic.twitter.com/tbm809sNhf
— Tristan Harris 🌎⌛️ (@tristanharris) May 9, 2019
What @chrishughes did today, in addition to being substantively right, is morally important. He served as a traitor to his class. In so doing, I hope he inspires many rich people who want to get on the right side of history to do inconvenient things. https://t.co/yQhrZGKrgF
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) May 9, 2019
Maybe I'm missing something but there's nothing new or interesting in that Chris Hughes FB piece other than that it's coming from someone who got insanely rich by being Mark Zuckerberg's college roommate
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) May 9, 2019
because the American model is 1) get rich 2) become a good person 3) but only if you like want to or 4) whatever
— Kim Boekbinder (@KimBoekbinder) May 9, 2019
Facebook responded to the op-ed via their vice president of global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg who said that they are too successful to be broken up.
NEW: Facebook statement from Nick Clegg re: Chris Hughes oped pic.twitter.com/VAZpQturMs
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) May 9, 2019
His statement was strange since he had previously been calling for other companies to split up before joining Facebook
Curiously @nick_clegg's "old-fashioned liberal" values evaporated when he was hired by one of the tech monopolists that offer services for free to the consumer (in return for all their data)
— Olivia Solon (@oliviasolon) May 9, 2019
People noted the hypocrisy
“A liberal abhors excessive concentrations of power in politic economics alike. I believe monopoly in the market place is as destructive of creativity & autonomy as a monopoly in politics” https://t.co/sMcXhQE49E @nick_clegg agreed with @chrishughes before @facebook paid him https://t.co/UZAVwWJ45K
— Steve Rhodes (@tigerbeat) May 9, 2019
Going back to the op-ed, Chris points out Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior toward its rivals, how powerful it has gotten, how it’s invading our private information and attention plus the traumatic effects it’s placing on content moderators. He ends up giving his two cents on what remedies to follow up including Facebook to separate Instagram and WhatsApp from the behemoth. He also called for setting up a government agency with the intention of protecting consumer privacy and regulating internet speech but the latter part is confusing as it makes for a terrible argument.
What to do now?
Will breaking up Facebook work? Maybe or maybe not? “What problems are we trying to solve, and does a breakup really address them?” Shira Ovide asks in her article adding that the breakup call needs more thought put into it.
All social networks capture and create human behavior. Some of that behavior is bad, sometimes in unforeseen ways. It’s not clear that changing who owns those network, for example having FB ‘blue’ and WhatsApp in different companies, would change this.
— Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) May 9, 2019
Breaking up Facebook (into what?) will not remedy the issues of overuse, nor fake news, nor extremist views, nor privacy. Breakup is a romantic fantasy. Study the long history of anti-trust and AT&T, beginning in 1913.
— Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) May 9, 2019
Critics are unsure if any of these plans will actually help deal with any of the concerns people normally raise. Mike points that breaking up the internet giants seems more opportunistic and headline-grabbing than realistic and that the real way to “break up” big tech platforms is to push for a world of protocols, rather than platforms, which would push the power out to the ends of the network, rather than keeping them centralized under a single silo with a giant owner.
Matt Rosoff shares the same sentiments on CNBC arguing that Facebook is not a monopoly in its actual market, advertising and that the problems it is currently facing would better be solved through targeted, strictly enforced regulation.