Facebook has issued a statement responding to co-founder Chris Hughes’ editorial piece in the New York Times, where he makes an argument to break up the company. Facebook said that the company should not be broken just because it was successful. Hughes’ argument is that Facebook totally dominates the world of social media, with no competition and that the FTC should separate Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication in a statement disagreed with Hughes’ arguments. He wrote, “Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.”
The statement further adds, “Facebook’s “Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work.”
Hughes in the The New York Times this morning said that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp need to be separated, adding that time was of essence, given that the company has plans to integrate these services in the future.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already made it clear that ‘interoperability’ as he calls it is a key principle for his ‘private’ social network of future, where a user would be able to use any one of Facebook’s service to message or post on the other. For instance, in the future one could send a WhatsApp message to another user, via Instagram, without needing a WhatsApp account.
Hughes also criticised the company for its privacy practices and pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg’s influence in the company is “staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government.”
He writes in the op-ed, “Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.”
The editorial also mentions how Facebook has effectively destroyed competition by buying it out as in the case of Instagram or WhatsApp or copying it which is what happened with Snapchat. According to him, it is time government holds the Facebook CEO “accountable.”
He also said that the Facebook CEO’s “power is unprecedented and un-American,” adding that the company “faces no market-based accountability,” since it completely dominates the social media market.
Hughes believes it was a mistake on the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s part to let Facebook acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. “The vibrant marketplace that once drove Facebook and other social media companies to compete to come up with better products has virtually disappeared. This means there’s less chance of start-ups developing healthier, less exploitative social media platforms. It also means less accountability on issues like privacy,” he wrote.
According to him, the problems of Facebook cannot be fixed by its CEO, but rather by the US government.