Facebook defends itself against op-ed calling for its breakup

On Thursday, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times calling for the company to split up, saying that the growth approach of CEO Mark Zuckerberg It led to a sacrifice security and courtesy for clicks, "and that he should be held responsible for the mistakes of his company.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 responsible for their actions," and that technology companies like Facebook should not be the ones that handle all the "important social, political and ethical questions" for the Internet.

But he points out that breaking Facebook – as Hughes asks – would be the wrong way to proceed. "The challenges he alludes to," writes Clegg, "including electoral interference and privacy guarantees, will not evaporate when breaking Facebook or any other large technology company." It continues to reiterate many of Facebook's usual talking points: that it has been a positive outcome for the world by connecting everyone, allowing companies to prosper and people to raise a lot 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] proposed that we do is not going to do anything to help solve those problems."

In particular, Clegg eludes what is probably the main focus of the opinion article: Zuckerberg himself. Hughes points out that while the CEO is a good person, he has too much power on Facebook and can not be held responsible there, he is the boss. "The government should hold Mark accountable," Hughes writes.

Opposes Hughes' argument that Facebook dominates much of the online world, and counterintuitively, argues that the company is not really a monopoly, saying that its revenue alone accounts for 20 percent of the advertising market. In addition, Hughes is misinterpreting the antitrust law, and those laws are outdated and would not be effective anyway.

Clegg maintains that the size and scale of Facebook are not the real problems, it is the size and the scale that allowed him to innovate and arrive to billions of people. It lists the things that Facebook has been working on in recent years: remove content related to terror and hatred, disrupt the efforts of foreign governments that try to interfere in elections and protect user information. "That would be practically impossible for a smaller company," he writes.

But that line underscores Hughes' point: none of those problems would be possible with a smaller company, and all the problems that Facebook is trying to solve are exacerbated by the incredible reach of Facebook around the world. Problems will not "evaporate", but 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.

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