The Current

Facebook has become one of world's 'most dangerous monopolies,' says expert

You may have had thoughts about breaking up with Facebook, by deleting your account. Now one of the company's co-founders is calling on the social network to dismantle. But is it an idea worth "liking?" Our experts debate the pros and cons.

Some are calling for Facebook’s breakup, while company wants internet regulation

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, a Facebook co-founder described CEO Mark Zuckerberg's power as "un-American" and called for the company's breakup. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

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Facebook has become "one of the world's most dangerous monopolies" and needs to be dismantled, claims an expert from a U.S.-based anti-monopoly group. 

"They operate on a business model that's based on deep surveillance of its users and then taking that personal information and allowing actors to target private advertising towards them," said Sarah Miller, deputy director of Open Markets Institute in Washington, which is committed to protecting democracy from corporations.

"We really need to separate out Facebook from Instagram, WhatsApp [companies Facebook owns], and ensure that there is market-based accountability, so that users have real choice and don't have to use a social media system that relies on manipulation and exploitation of deeply private information to connect with others online," she told The Current's guest host Gillian Findlay.

In an opinion piece published Thursday in the New York Times, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote that he wants to see the social network break up. 

In a country with "a tradition of reining in monopolies," the power of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is "un-American," Hughes said. 

He co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard University with Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz. Hughes quit Facebook in 2007 and later said in a LinkedIn post that he made $500 million for his three years of work.

Facebook weighs in

Miller described Facebook's business model as "incompatible with democratic societies."

She suggested that U.S. antitrust laws, which are designed to promote market competition, should be part of the solution in keeping the company in check. 

However, Facebook disagrees with the idea that the company needs to be dismantled.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company," said a statement that Nick Clegg, the company's vice-president of global affairs and communications, provided to The Current.

"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. Indeed, he is meeting Government leaders this week to further that work."

To learn more about whether breaking Facebook up would address people's concerns, Findlay spoke to:

  • Sarah Miller, deputy director at Open Markets Institute, an organization that works to protect democracy from corporate concentration and monopoly power.
  • Barak Orbach, a law professor at the University of Arizona, who focuses on antitrust laws.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Kirsten Fenn. With files from CBC News. Produced by Julie Crysler and John Chipman.


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