Yesterday, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes stirred up controversy after publishing an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the social media giant to be broken up.
Within it, Hughes expressed his concerns, and referred to Facebook as a monopoly and pointed out its anti-competitive nature. In addition, Hughes focused on the amount of power that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wields, calling his influence “staggering” and “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government.”
It seems Facebook is now on the defense. The company’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, spoke out in a statement first given to CNN and tweeted by CNN’s Hadas Gold:
NEW: Facebook statement from Nick Clegg re: Chris Hughes oped pic.twitter.com/VAZpQturMs
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) May 9, 2019
However, Clegg’s own statement highlights part of the issue.
As outlined within Hughes’ op-ed, there’s a severe lack of oversight when it comes to Facebook and Zuckerberg’s control. Hughes wrote that Facebook’s board acts more like an advisory committee since Zuckerberg controls about 60 percent of voting shares.
“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,” Hughes wrote. “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 process for accountability cannot rest with Zuckerberg because he is not a neutral party in the conversation. In addition, Clegg’s statement doesn’t actually counter Hughes’ claims that Facebook limits competition and holds back innovation.
Overall, saying that Facebook is successful isn’t actually a good argument to counter calls for it to be broken up. At the same time Facebook was successful, it also continued to have privacy violations such as Cambridge Analytica and incidents of hateful content on its platform the live-stream of a massacre.