Facebook tells co-founder: 'Accountability not enforced by breaking up company'

Facebook has responded to co-founder Chris Hughes' opinion piece on The New York Times stating the need to break up the social media giant to protect democracy, telling media outlets that it is not the right way to demonstrate accountability.

In a statement to Marketing, Facebook's VP for global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg, said Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But accountability is not enforced by calling for the breakup of a "successful American company".

"Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work," Clegg added.

In his opinion piece, Hughes suggested that the government should enforce antitrust laws by "undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years". He added that regulation is needed to uphold accountability and competition alone would not necessarily stimulate privacy protection. However, users are unable to protest against this by moving to other platforms due to Facebook's monopoly on the market.

Sharing concerns about how Zuckerburg's focus on growth has led him to "sacrifice security and civility for clicks", Hughes claimed that Zuckerburg's influence is "staggering", far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. Hughes further cited Zuckerburg's ability to decide what people see in their News Feeds, privacy settings, and the rules to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive. Also, he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

In the article, Hughes added that Zuckerburg had described ambitions for Facebook as “domination”, something that has since been achieved with Facebook contributing more than 80% of the world’s social networking revenue. While his ambitions as an entrepreneur cannot be blamed, Hughes said that Zuckerburg has created "a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice".

Facebook has recently confirmed that works to develop voice assistant technologies are currently in the pipeline. This comes as the company is embroiled in yet another privacy lapse involving management of users’ email information.

This is not the first time the social media platform has faced data and privacy breach. In April last year, Facebook found potentially 65,009 users in Singapore at risk of having their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. The platform also confirmed that 1,096,666 accounts in Indonesia were put at risk as well.

Following the reveal, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer has also outlined plans to restrict data access on the platform – affecting APIs such as Pages, Events, Groups, and Instagram Platforms. Other measures also cover Facebook Login, search and account recovery, call and text history, data providers and partner categories and app controls.

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