The past few years have been rough for Facebook from a PR standpoint. From Russians using its platform to interfere in the 2016 election, to the selling of user data, to the infamous one-day outage, and more, the mega-corporation has become an easy target for public distrust. All of these events have led to to the latest bit of news surrounding Facebook: Congress clamoring for a breakup.
Like many policy questions, there is no right or wrong answer, and depending on who you ask, you can hear a radically different response. So, today, we’d like to take a little bit of a closer look at how we got here, along with the pros and cons of both sides of the argument.
How We Got Here
In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. Two years later, it also acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, the biggest acquisition to date. These investments have helped Facebook achieve its $138.3 billion [RY1].
Being such a large organization isn’t necessarily bad in itself. But last week, one of Facebook’s Co-Founder’s, Chris Hughes, released an op-ed in the New York Times renouncing the company that he built [RY2].
Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. 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. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.
Hughes alludes to Mark Zuckerberg’s internal mantra, “Move fast and break things.” While this mantra has undeniably led to Facebook’s success, it’s also led to the aforementioned screw-ups.
With the release of Hughes’ article, it has seemingly become the straw that broke the camel’s back as 2020 candidates widely agree that this is a hot-button issue that needs to be addressed.
The Argument For
Despite Facebook’s success, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the leadership team have been reckless at best. Allowing the world’s largest social media platform to be used to sway elections, fuel hate groups, and collect data have rapidly spawned numerous global issues.
While many have attempted to regulate Facebook, historically through fines from the U.S., U.K., and Turkey, these have merely been slaps on the wrist for the mega-rich rulers of the social platform.
Even if Facebook were to be more widely regulated in the coming years, we’re still in the Wild West era of social media. And how can something be effectively regulated if all of the nuances aren’t clear?
The Argument Against
Life has been easier for users of Instagram and WhatsApp post-acquisition. From a marketing perspective, our agency has seamless connectivity between all three platforms because Facebook has established the API’s to do so.
Although this could represent a major inconvenience in the event of a disconnection, there’s realistically no guarantee that things won’t operate the same way they do right now from a business point-of-view. Would Mark Zuckerberg really let his children be sold off? I don’t think so.
Finally, Zuckerberg argues that the only way to fight the issues caused by Facebook is to use a company the size of Facebook to do it. Breaking up this entity could hinder efforts to improve even their own internal policies.
Facebook is a far-from-perfect machine, but it just might be the best we have right now. Attempts to break up the company might be indicative of retreating steps in the evolution of social media. That said, enhanced regulation should be mandatory at this point.
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