The idea that breaking up Facebook will do anything actually useful is a stupid idea. But it is an idea that the political elite have thoroughly embraced.. Unlike some portions of the web, Facebook is entirely optional in your life and you do not have to use it. It is not like a public utility that provides you the means of communication, your actual internet connection, natural gas, or even power.
It is a freely distributed software platform where you can share or not share memes and personal updates. It has a messenger service, a program called WhatsApp, and Instagram. Of all of Facebook’s platforms, I am on Instagram daily, Facebook occasionaly, messenger rarely, and WhatsApp never. I have never even touched WhatsApp.
With Instagram, you do not even have to have a Facebook account. My kid has a private Instagram account. She has no other part of the Facebook ecosystem. It seems utterly ridiculous to suggest Facebook needs to be broken up because my child can have an Instagram account with no other commingling within Facebook’s universe.
Frankly, much of the outrage over Facebook is because media platforms, including those failed by Chris Hughes, invested heavily in trying to draw traffic from Facebook and were not successful. So now they want to break up Facebook convinced that their failures are actually Facebook’s failures.
Undoubtedly there are legitimate concerns about Facebook and privacy. Facebook has often behaved as its own worst enemy. But, again, you do not have to use Facebook. However, when you do use Facebook you will often encounter advertising for small businesses and niche products you actually are interested in and would have never encountered but for Facebook’s robust ability to connect you to advertisers you care about.
It is not just publishers mad at Facebook and blaming Facebook for their own failures. Democrats are pissed off because the Trump team outworked them on Facebook. Barack Obama was doing the same damn thing Trump did back in 2012 and the media was positively orgasmic about the use of Facebook to turn out Democrat voters. It only because a problem when it turned out Republicans could be turned out as well.
Republican politicians are mad at Facebook because Facebook, a private company, decided some reactionary trolls cannot use their platform. While I am sympathetic to the free speech concerns, Facebook is a private company unbound by the First Amendment and singling it out for blocking people from using its platform is absurd. Go build your own Facebook. The whole idea that Facebook has some specially carved out liability protection is unthoughtful garbage. Every website, including this one, is freed of liability for what anonymous trolls write on the platform. Scrapping that for Facebook because Facebook banned neo-nazi apologists is a stupid idea premised on your hating the politics of the people who work at Facebook.
“But it’s too big! It is too dominant!” you cry. The problem here is not Facebook, but a government that has spent years carving out exceptions in the tax code and laws for massive companies at the expense of upstarts. From patent issues and intellectual property to regulatory issues, if Congress really wants to take on Facebook they should tear down the barriers to entry, treat software based intellectual property under copyright law, and stop putting so many burdensome regulations on internet start up companies.
Breaking up Facebook may make you sound smart, but it is actually a really stupid idea by largely unsuccessful people who have ridden the coattails of far more successful people and by a bunch of overly ambitious politicians trying to fundraise.
If you don’t like Facebook, don’t use it.