Last week the New York Times published a scathing and compelling op-ed from Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes arguing why the social media giant must be broken up. In the op-ed, Hughes said it was Mark Zuckerberg’s “very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic,” continuing:
Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms–Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp–that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60% 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. 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.
Needles to say, Hughes’ piece garnered a lot of attention. Besides being convincing, it was notable because it wasn’t just another politician calling for regulators to step in and break up Facebook—it was a Facebook cofounder himself calling for just that.
After the op-ed was published, Facebook released a small statement arguing that breaking up Facebook won’t lead to more accountability—only passing new rules for the internet can solve problems Facebook’s platform propagates. The statement itself seemed like an obvious dodge, as it didn’t address the crux of Hughes’ argument: that one man—Mark Zuckerberg—has an inordinate amount of power over the most influential platform to ever exist.
Over the weekend, Zuckerberg himself chimed in on Hughes’ op-ed. Speaking to French broadcaster France 2, Zuckerberg said, “My main reaction is that what he’s proposing we do isn’t going to do anything to help”…which is exactly what you would expect the guy who holds all the power Hughes warned about to say when someone suggests taking that power away from him.
Zuckerberg went on to argue that Facebook’s size and scale actually helps to protect society from all the threats its platform enables:
If what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to invest billions of dollars a year, like we are, in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference. Our budget for safety this year is bigger than the whole revenue of our company was when we went public earlier this decade. A lot of that is because we’ve been able to build a successful business that can now support that.
Again, his argument seems like a bit of a dodge. But maybe it sounds more convincing in hilariously heavily dubbed French, which is what his France 2 interview was broadcast in. You can check it out below.