May 10, 2019

Time to Break Up Facebook? Cofounder Says Yes

Hughes sees a monopoly in social media, but he calls for more government control over speech.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Thursday, Facebook cofounder Mark Hughes states unequivocally, “It is time to break up Facebook.” Hughes argues that Facebook has become too powerful and that Mark Zuckerberg reigns over a nearly worldwide monopoly in social media. He points to Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, noting that “about 70 percent of American adults use social media, and a vast majority are on Facebook products.”

Hughes also notes the aspect of Facebook that has raised the ire of many on the political Right — its censorship of speech. “The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech,” Hughes argues. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.” Hughes points to the recent banning of several individuals for being “dangerous” even though they did not break any of Facebook’s rules.

Hughes then offers his solution to the problem. First, enforce existing anti-trust laws to break up the monopoly. If he had stopped there, we would have little argument with him. In fact, his quoting of Adam Smith — that “competition spurs growth and innovation” — is a welcome recognition of the problem. However, like so many on the Left, he isn’t content to let the government simply enforce anti-trust laws. No, government must be given even more power to regulate Americans’ speech.

He writes, “Just breaking up Facebook is not enough. We need a new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. … The agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media. This idea may seem un-American — we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices. We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.”

The idea “seems un-American” because it is un-American. Hughes points out examples of “regulated speech,” but they are so regulated because they are directly criminal and are only punished after the fact. Our system is designed to maximize the protection of Americans’ right to free speech — especially political speech — not to prevent criminal speech. Such is the realm of totalitarian systems.

What is interesting about Facebook is that both sides of the political aisle are calling for its head. However, leftists like Elizabeth Warren are doing so not out of a concern for promoting free enterprise or protecting free speech but as Big Government anti-corporatists whose goal is socialism.

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