Time to call in the ZuckBusters

Conspiracy theorist David Icke asserts that the world is run by a secret cabal of all-powerful shape-shifting lizard people. Watching Mark Zuckerberg’s robotic testimony before the American Congress, Icke’s nutty conspiracy theory might not seem so far-fetched, after all. But what cannot be denied is that the Zuck is fast becoming an unelected global overlord. quote.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wields so much power that even one of the social network’s co-founders thinks it’s both “unprecedented” and “un-American.”

Chris Hughes, who co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg while they were students at Harvard, called for the social network to be broken up in an op-ed published Thursday by The New York Times. “I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” Hughes wrote, referring to Facebook’s boss and major shareholder. “I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders.”

Facebook’s rapid growth has been fueled by acquisitions, including Instagram and WhatsApp, a messaging service. Critics and experts say Facebook simply purchased its competition, rather than innovating to meet the challenges they posed…And Facebook has been called out for not doing enough to combat election meddling, misinformation and hate speech. Its enormous power, critics argue, needs to be kept in check.

I was human. I am human, still. But, um, but I was just referring to myself in the past. Not that I was not human

Mark Zuckerberg, actual quote.

Calls to break up Facebook aren’t new. But it is startling to hear one of the company’s co-founders call for such an extreme measure. Hughes argues that Zuckerberg holds so much power that even the company’s board of directors can’t keep him accountable. Zuckerberg controls around 60 percent of Facebook’s voting shares, which means the board technically can’t fire him even if he messes up.

Hughes isn’t alone. Advocacy groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Color of Change and Common Sense Media, have previously asked the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that enforces antitrust law, to make Instagram and WhatsApp separate companies. A split would also make it easier for other social media companies to compete with Facebook, the organizations argue […] Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts who’s also a presidential candidate, is among the lawmakers who want to break up Facebook, as well as other tech giants, including Google and Amazon […] Warren has proposed such a law, which would require tech platforms that take in $25 billion or more in sales to “structurally separate” their products. Amazon, for example, would have to spin off its house brand Amazon Basics. Warren said that if she won the presidential election her administration would also appoint regulators to unwind the mergers of Instagram and WhatsApp from Facebook. end quote.

This is a rare issue I’m inclined to side with Warren on. While I generally lean towards a laissez-faire approach to markets, only a rigid ideologue would refuse to recognise that sometimes a market can metastasise. Like a healthy system, a healthy market has an in-built immunity, competition, that helps keep corporations in check. But, sometimes a corporation gets so powerful that, like a virus, it suppresses that immune system.

But, like antibiotics, regulation is a medicine which should be used sparingly. If regulation of the tech market is needed – and I would argue that it is – then anti-competition regulation seems preferable to Facebook’s suggested alternative. quote.

Facebook has pushed back, arguing that breaking up the company wouldn’t hold the social network more accountable for its actions. Instead, Facebook has called for more internet regulation around harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

Facebook says it has plenty of competition, pointing to YouTube, Snapchat, iMessage and WeChat, among others. end quote.

cnet


This is disingenuous: SnapChat and YouTube don’t directly compete with Facebook. Each may be a “social network”, but their model and functionality is completely different. Meanwhile, Facebook’s call for regulation of “harmful content” and so on should be recognised for what it is: a chokehold on free speech. This is precisely the reason why so many of us think Facebook’s oligarchy needs to be broken.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg’s dangerous proposal will be attractive to too many of the natural authoritarians who inhabit the left spectrum of politics. There, at least, Elizabeth Warren should be congratulated.

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