Splitting Facebook not an answer

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Mark Zuckerberg said. This was the CEO and founder of Facebook’s ineffectual response to the 2018 data breach by the research firm Cambridge Analytica.

 This breach put Facebook under an unwanted spotlight regarding the great size of its platform and how much user data it possesses. Many have begun to call for the breakup of Facebook to combat these issues. Though separating Facebook may initially seem like a proper solution, the execution of such a plan is too far-fetched and implausible.

It is evident that Facebook has problems. A lack of management and improper monetization of user data are the principal causes for these issues. However, breaking up Facebook is not the solution to either of these problems. Facebook can be viewed as a major data center. The user data of its two billion monthly users is stored in this data center. The problem does not stem from the possession or gathering of this user data, but the utilization of this data for advertisers. 

Splitting up Facebook will not limit its growth or size. It will simply drive up prices for user data as that data becomes more dispersed with a break up. This is the same user data that is purchased by many small businesses who utilize Facebook for social media marketing. A breakup will affect the bottom line of these small businesses who are reliant on Facebook for marketing. Neither Facebook, nor those who advertise on Facebook, will benefit from such a change.

The exact way in which Facebook will be “broken up” is bewildering. A company of such size cannot simply be cut into even parts. The entire financial structure of Facebook will be threatened by a break up. 

There is no clear proposal that can properly break up Facebook while still retaining its basic platform and services. Each individual component of Facebook acts in conjunction with its counterparts. Simply calling for a “break up” of such an intricate platform is not the appropriate solution.

The underlying question of such a proposal still remains: to what extent can the government limit a private company? With Facebook’s size, some degree of regulation is appropriate due to its impact on the public. However, pushing for an outright break up of a private company is fundamentally wrong. 

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for Facebook to step back on its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp as a way to break up Facebook. However, such a change is not only preposterous, but inherently wrong. Facebook has incorporated the services of both Instagram and WhatsApp within its platforms. Stripping these acquisitions for the sake of breaking up a large media platform will cause further problems in ownership of these previously acquired companies. Breaking up Facebook is not the correct move.

Facebook is being vilified purely because of its size and influence. What many are forgetting is that it is a social media platform which aims to build an infrastructure to connect a community of people. Rather than breaking down on this idea with a separation, a better solution would be increased regulation by the government and a stronger management on Facebook’s part. 

Strictly watching Facebook’s actions regarding user data and making sure the company acts within its limits is the first step. Having congressional oversight over the actions of Facebook in the long term will properly regulate its actions.