Facebooks Clegg pushes back against efforts to break up tech giants

A senior Facebook executive on Monday rebuffed growing calls by politicians to break up many of Silicon Valleys biggest names, claiming that such policies would not solve many of the problems now confronting the digital world.

Speaking at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Nick Clegg, the social networking giants chief lobbyist, said that efforts to hobble tech companies — in Brussels, Washington, D.C. and beyond — would prove counterproductive, and that lawmakers should instead focus on creating new global rules to regulate the internet.

“Simply breaking up Facebook and other big tech companies into smaller – but still huge – companies wont address the issues that cause people the most concern, whether its privacy, or election integrity, or harmful content,” Clegg told the German audience. “Just because it is difficult to regulate the internet doesnt mean policymakers should jump to the alternative of wishing these companies away.”

His comments come as regulatory questions mount around the perceived dominance of the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple across much of the digital economy. That has led some politicians, including Elizabeth Warren and, to a more limited extent, Bernie Sanders, two Democratic candidates to become the next U.S. president, to call for the break up of these tech companies, though any such plans would likely lead to years of bitter legal wrangling.

European officials also have urged a check on how these digital platforms operate, and Brussels has already imposed three antitrust fines on Google — totaling more than €8 billion — for the abuse of its dominant online position. The search giant is appealing those rulings.

“For many, Facebook has become the scapegoat, the malign force that has manipulated otherwise right-thinking people into acting against their own interests” — Nick Clegg

In his speech in Berlin, Clegg defended the role that Facebook now plays in the lives of its 2.2 billion users worldwide. He dismissed concerns that it holds too much control of peoples online data and that it helped to spread disinformation — from both domestic groups and foreign-backed actors, notably those tied to Russia — during elections from the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to last months European Parliament election.

“For many, Facebook has become the scapegoat, the malign force that has manipulated otherwise right-thinking people into acting against their own interests,” said Clegg. “We have already taken significant steps to tighten the rules on political advertising and to clamp down on fake accounts and malicious content.”

As part of his defense, Clegg also took a swipe at Apple, another tech company facing its own competition concerns, whose chief executive, Tim Cook, has been publicly critical of how Facebook handles peoples online information. The Facebook executive said that unlike other platforms, those owned by Facebook remained free to consumers, allowing anyone worldwide to have ready access to digital services.

“Some other big tech companies make their money by selling expensive hardware or subscription services, or in some cases both, to consumers in developed, wealthier economies,” said Clegg, without specifically naming Apple. “They are an exclusive club, availableRead More – Source