Facebook rejects call for breakup

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Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over data sharing practices as well as hate speech and misinformation on its networks. Some U.S. lawmakers have pushed for action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.

Facebook’s social network has more than 2 billion users. It also owns WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, each used by more than 1 billion people. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

READ ALSO: Why It Is Time To Break Up The Facebook Company

Facebook has however rejected Hughes’ call for WhatsApp and Instagram to be made into separate companies, and said the focus should instead be on regulating the internet. Zuckerberg will be in Paris on Friday to discuss internet regulation with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company,” Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg said in a statement.

“Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for.”

Late on Thursday, Senator Mike Crapo, the Republican who chairs the banking committee and Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat, asked Facebook to answer questions about a potential cryptocurrency-based payments system using its social network and its data collection.

The letter also asked questions about consumer privacy protections and if it had information about users’ creditworthiness.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, told CNBC he thinks Facebook should be broken up and that the Justice Department’s antitrust division needs to begin an investigation.

Antitrust law makes such a proposal tough to execute because the government would have to take the company to court and win. It is rare to break up a company but not unheard of, with Standard Oil and AT&T being the two biggest examples.

Despite its scandals, the company’s core business has proven resilient. Facebook has blown past earnings estimates in the past two quarters and its stock price barely budged in response to Hughes’ opinion piece.

Hughes suggested Zuckerberg should be held responsible for privacy and other lapses at the company, echoing a call earlier this month by Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden to hold the CEO individually liable for “repeated violations” of privacy.

“The government must hold Mark accountable. For too long, lawmakers have marveled at Facebook’s explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive,” Hughes said.

In one of a number of scandals to hit the company, Facebook is accused of inappropriately sharing information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook has been in advanced talks with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle a year-old investigation and said last month it expected to spend between $3 billion and $5 billion.

On Monday, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators criticized reported plans for the settlement, calling on the FTC to impose harsher penalties and more restrictions on Facebook’s business

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s previous head of news feed who recently took over Instagram, responded to Hughes on Twitter.

“Regulation is important and necessary, but I’m not convinced breaking us up is the right path. Would love to chat about it if you’re open,” Mosseri said.

Yetunde Adegoke

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