- REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
- Mark Zuckerberg has pushed back at calls for Facebook to be broken up under antitrust law.
- The Facebook CEO said the company has plenty of competitors and Facebook’s scale helps it tackle abuse.
- Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes recently said Zuckerberg had too much power and his company needed to be reined in.
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Mark Zuckerberg is pushing back after his fellow Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes called for the social-networking giant to be broken up.
On a conference call with reporters on Thursday to discuss Facebook’s content-moderation efforts, the 34-year-old billionaire chief executive was asked about Hughes’ argument, first publicized in a New York Times essay, that the $514 billion company had grown too powerful and regulators needed to take antitrust action against it.
Zuckerberg’s argument was twofold: There is still plenty of competition in the market, and Facebook’s massive scale helps it to fight abuse.
“Whether it’s iMessage for those of you in the US, or Snapchat, or YouTube or Twitter or TikTok, or any of those different folks, the average person here I think uses seven or eight different services to communicate in different kinds of context,” Zuckerberg said. “So I think it almost goes without saying that we live in a very competitive and dynamic environment where these services are constantly coming up.”
The difference between Facebook and the others, however, is one of scale: The size of Facebook dwarfs just about all of the competitors Zuckerberg mentioned, whether in terms of active users, revenue, activity, or just about any other metric (YouTube is close in scale to Facebook, but there is relatively little overlap in their functionality for most users, and it is owned by Google).
Zuckerberg also said antitrust remedies wouldn’t help solve safety issues – something he cited as one of the key issues any regulation should seek to solve. In recent months, the CEO has become increasingly vocal about his theoretical support for increased government oversight – though he has focused on areas such as content moderation that wouldn’t fundamentally limit Facebook’s power.
“[The] reaction I have when I hear this question is, ‘what problem is somebody trying to solve when they raise the issue what kind of regulation should exist around the internet?’ … If the problems you are most worried about are the ones about … harmful content, making sure that we prevent election interference, making sure that we have the right privacy control … I don’t think that the remedy of breaking up the company is going to address those, I actually think it’s going to make it a lot harder.”
Facebook’s sheer size and colossal pots of cash aid it in this, he said: “The success of this company has allowed us to fund these efforts at a massive level. I think that the amount of our budget that goes towards our safety systems, I believe, is greater than Twitter’s whole revenue this year.”
There’s a curious tension to this answer: After downplaying Facebook’s outsized power and pointing out all the competitors that he said give it a run for its money, Zuckerberg pivoted to emphasizing just how much larger Facebook is than everyone else and saying it would be dangerous to interfere with that scale.
And many of these problems are such big problems precisely because of Facebook’s scale and its historic slowness in responding to abuse of its platform.
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