On Thursday, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote an opinion piece on The New York Times calling for the company to be broken, saying that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s approach to growth led him to sacrifice safety and courtesy for clicks, and that he should be held accountable for his company’s mistakes. Now, Facebook has responded with an opinion piece, saying that its size is not the real problem, and that its success as a platform should not be punished.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, wrote the article, and in it, agrees with Hughs that “companies should be held accountable for their actions,” and that technology companies like Facebook should not be the ones. who handle everything. of the “important social, political and ethical issues” for the internet.
Challenges “won’t evaporate as Facebook or any other big tech company splits up”
But he points out that breaking with Facebook, as Hughes calls for, would be the wrong path. “The challenges you allude to,” Clegg writes, “including election interference and privacy guarantees, will not evaporate when you break Facebook or any other big tech company.” He continues to reiterate many of Facebook’s common talking points – that it has been a positive outcome for the world by connecting everyone, allowing businesses to prosper, and helping people raise lots of money for important causes around the world.
Zuckerberg also responded to the op-ed while in France, saying that “my main reaction was that what [Hughes is] proposing that we do so is not going to do anything to help solve those problems. “
In particular, Clegg sidesteps what is likely to be the main focus of the op-ed: Zuckerberg himself. Hughes points out that while the CEO is a good person, he has too much power on Facebook and cannot be held accountable there, he is the one in command. “The government must hold Mark accountable,” Hughes writes.
He objects to Hughes’s argument that Facebook dominates much of the online world, and counterintuitively argues that the company is not really a monopoly, saying its revenue only accounts for 20 percent of the advertising market. Also, Hughes is misinterpreting antitrust law, and those laws are out of date and would not be effective anyway.
Clegg argues that Facebook’s size and scale are not the real problems
Clegg argues that Facebook’s size and scale are not the real problems, it is the size and scale that allowed it to innovate and reach billions of people. It lists the things Facebook has been working on in recent years: removing content related to terror and hate, disrupting the efforts of foreign governments trying to interfere in elections, and protecting user information. “That would be practically impossible for a smaller company,” he writes.
But that line underscores Hughes’s point: None of those problems would be possible with a smaller company, and that all the problems Facebook is trying to solve are exacerbated by Facebook’s incredible reach around the world. The problems won’t “evaporate”, but they could be a bit more manageable in a smaller space.
Updated May 11, 2019, 1:53 PM ET: Updated to include separate comments from Zuckerberg.