Amid ongoing criticism, Facebook dismisses calls for a breakup of world’s biggest internet companies.
Facebook is arguing against a break-up of the world’s biggest social network and other major internet companies, claiming that such a move would not tackle controversial issues such as privacy, attempts to influence elections, or harmful content.
Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp and has almost 2.4 billion monthly users, is currently in the crosshairs of regulators around the world and faces calls from some politicians for penalties, or even for the company to be forcibly broken up.
Yet in a speech in Berlin on Monday, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, stated: “Just because it is difficult to regulate the internet doesn’t mean policy makers should jump to the alternative of wishing these companies away.”
“The internet does need competition and it does need regulation,” Clegg added. “We want to work with governments and policymakers to design the sort of smart regulation that fosters competition, encourages innovation, and protects consumers.”
Clegg, former British deputy prime minister, was hired by Facebook in 2018 precisely to help the social media giant deal with a global backlash over its mishandling of user data and not doing enough to prevent Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
US President Donald Trump has called for closer scrutiny of companies like Facebook and Google, saying they suppress conservative voices online, while just last week, seven US Senate Democrats asked the Trump administration to disclose details of possible Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department antitrust investigations into Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet and Apple.
Earlier this year, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, both announced support for the breakup of Facebook.
Social media in the spotlight
Public trust in social media is at an all-time low. Some 60 percent of respondents in a recent survey by PR firm Edelman said social media companies were not effective in controlling fake news, deterring hate speech, or protecting privacy. The survey measured opinions in nine countries, including the US, UK, and Canada.
It gets worse for such companies. Only 41 percent of people say they trust social media. In the US, the figure is just 30 percent. More than 60 percent wanted governments to regulate social media better.
So, what comes next for the mighty tech giants? Industry observers believe that further regulation remains more likely than antitrust measures, but with the US on the verge of a crucial presidential race the issue will certainly be at the heart of the public debate.