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Facebook's Clegg dismisses co-founder Hughes's call for breakup

(Bloomberg) --Facebook’s challenges can be tackled through regulation, not by breaking up the company, a company official wrote Saturday in the New York Times.

“While we operate under more regulation now than at any point in the history of the company, we believe more should be done,” said Nick Clegg, the social media giant’s vice president of global affairs and communications.

Clegg’s piece came in response to the provocative made in a May 9 New York Times opinion piece by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook.” Hughes went on in an interview to air Sunday on CNN to question the “near-unilateral power” held by Facebook CEO and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg across the social media empire and its billions of users.

“Hughes maintains that lawmakers merely marvel at Facebook’s explosive growth and have overlooked their own responsibility to protect the public through more competition,” Clegg wrote. He said that reflects misunderstandings about the “central purpose” of antitrust law.

Nick Clegg.jpg
Nick Clegg, member of the U.K. parliament for the Liberal Democrat Party, poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Friday, Feb. 9, 2017. Clegg, the pro-EU former deputy prime minister, said the departure of U.K.'s ambassador to the European Union Ivan Rogers was a "body blow" to the government’s Brexit plans, whereas Brexit campaigners welcomed the move. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

“It is hard to sustain the claim that Facebook is a monopoly,” Clegg said. Most of Facebook’s revenue, he said, comes from digital advertising, and the company has an estimated market share of about 20 percent of the U.S. online ad market.

Antitrust law, he said, is meant to protect consumers by making sure they have access to low cost and high quality goods and services. The laws are “not meant to punish a company because people disagree with its management,” he added.

Clegg said governments should set rules in four areas: reducing harmful content, protecting democratic elections, supporting unified rules for data privacy, and making it easier for individuals to move their data.

“Anyone worried about the challenges we face in an online world should look at getting the rules of the internet right, not dismantling successful American companies,” Clegg wrote.