Mark Zuckerberg makes the case for not breaking up Facebook

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 08:59:23-04

Mark Zuckerberg can’t think of a single reason to break up Facebook, even as lawmakers call to dismantle or regulate major US tech platforms.

In a conversation Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Zuckerberg said being big is actually a benefit in the fight to prevent the spread of misinformation and deal with election interference.

“The question that I think we have to grapple with is that breaking up these companies wouldn’t make any of those problems better,” Zuckerberg said in a conversation with Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein. “The amount that we’re investing in safety and security is greater than the whole revenue of our company was earlier this decade when we went public, so it just would not have been possible to do the things we’re doing at a smaller scale.”

Not everyone sees it that way.

The House Judiciary committee said earlier this month that it’s launching a “top-to-bottom” antitrust investigation of the tech industry, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Missteps involving the handling of users’ personal data, misinformation scandals and allegations that their size hinders competition has put major tech companies at the center of growing scrutiny and criticism.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg argued that when you look at smaller social media companies such as Twitter and Reddit, they still have to deal with misinformation questions and election interference.

He said Facebook, which has 2.38 billion monthly active users around the world, is much bigger, and better positioned to respond. He said Facebook is able to build a defensive system once and then apply it across its other properties — Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

“It’s not the case that if you broke up Facebook into a bunch of pieces, you suddenly wouldn’t have those issues,” Zuckerberg said. “You would have those issues, you would just be much less equipped to deal with them.”

Facebook appears to have settled on its early arguments against calls to break it up. Other executives have been making the media rounds, pointing to Facebook’s size as an advantage in fighting problems and have made an appeal to US global interests, pointing out that Chinese companies will not be broken up.

On Monday, Nick Clegg, the company’s head of global policy and communications, pushed back against the calls for a break up of the company, urging that policymakers instead develop new regulations to prevent countries such as China and Russia from “writing the new rules of the Internet.”

Zuckerberg also made the case Wednesday that its highest profile acquisitions — Instagram and WhatsApp — became more innovative as a result of being part of Facebook.