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Facebook has gotten too big for Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is not comfortable with the enormous influence he has over the world.During his ...

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 4:25 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 4:25 PM

Mark Zuckerberg is not comfortable with the enormous influence he has over the world.

During his apology tour this week for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Zuckerberg lent support to the idea of regulating Facebook and admitted he'd rather not be the person making content policy decisions for the world.

But he pushed back on one thing: Facebook's immense power.

When CNN's Laurie Segall asked if Facebook had become "too powerful," Zuckerberg responded: "I don't think so."

"The reason why we've succeeded as a company is because we serve people and give people power," Zuckerberg said. "The day that we stop doing that, we'll stop being a relevant company."

Zuckerberg argued that history shows any list of "the biggest [companies] in any given industry" will inevitably change "ten years later, or ten years after that."

And yet, at this moment, Facebook isn't just on the list, but nearly unrivaled in its dominance. It has billions of users and tremendous influence over the media and advertising industries. It also has no obvious direct competitor who can take it down thanks to years of acquiring and cloning newer social media companies.

"It influences how more than 2 billion around the world people see, think, and feel. I can't think of an institution that has close to that power, with the possible exception of Google," says Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia and author of a forthcoming book on Facebook's impact on democracy.

"For Mark Zuckerberg to deny that," he added, "is insulting."

Related: Zuckerberg opens the door to testifying before Congress

Facebook is widely considered one of the "big four" tech companies, along with Apple, Amazon and Google's parent company, Alphabet. Like others in this group, Facebook has the ability to upend new industries overnight - and perhaps upend society itself.

News broke last weekend that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump's campaign, reportedly accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

Facebook has faced other controversies over user data and privacy, but the stakes have grown with the platform's influence. This time, it wasn't simply a matter of selling ads, but potentially swaying an election.

Once again, Facebook was forced to account for its role in the 2016 election after what was already a bruising year full of stories about fake news, foreign election meddling and filter bubbles.

"Any company that can influence a US presidential election without being aware that it is doing so is demonstrably too powerful," Roger McNamee, Zuckerberg's former mentor and a venture capitalist, told CNN by email.

Brian Wieser, an analyst who tracks Facebook for Pivotal Research Group, says the real issue plaguing the company may not be whether it's too powerful so much as whether it became powerful too fast.

"It looks like a problem that has emerged is that they may have become big and powerful too quickly, without ensuring their foundations were solid enough to withstand the growth they have had," Wieser told CNN.

Dex Torricke-Barton, a former speechwriter for Zuckerberg and former executive communications manager for Facebook, disagrees that the company is too powerful. But the idea that it is does create a genuine challenge for Facebook, he said.

"The perception that Facebook is all-powerful places an unfair burden on the company," he said. "The challenges of misinformation, fake news and bad online actors didn't begin with Facebook, and can't be solved by Facebook alone."

Zuckerberg may play down how powerful Facebook is, but his interviews this week highlight his clear discomfort with the responsibility he now has, not just to make products, but to make policies with global impact.

"I feel fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California in an office making content policy decisions for people around the world," Zuckerberg told Re/code. "[The] thing is like, 'Where's the line on hate speech?' I mean, who chose me to be the person that did that? I guess I have to, because of [where we are] now, but I'd rather not."

In the CNN interview, Zuckerberg said if anyone had told him when he founded Facebook in 2004 that he'd one day be battling state actors, "I wouldn't have really believed that that would be something I'd have to work on 14 years later."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604052

Reported Deaths: 7616
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248161773
Ramsey52466895
Dakota46797470
Anoka42724458
Washington27406291
Stearns22552224
St. Louis18134312
Scott17544135
Wright16405148
Olmsted13390102
Sherburne1200195
Carver1066148
Clay825692
Rice8187110
Blue Earth762443
Crow Wing681494
Kandiyohi667585
Chisago619652
Otter Tail585684
Benton582998
Goodhue483474
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461151
Itasca459263
Isanti439964
McLeod430161
Morrison424362
Nobles407950
Beltrami407561
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386555
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311454
Brown307840
Le Sueur297225
Cass286032
Todd285632
Meeker263142
Waseca238023
Martin235032
Roseau211021
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196241
Dodge18773
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162823
Fillmore157410
Faribault154319
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138737
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116626
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching95117
Stevens92411
Clearwater89116
Marshall88817
Lake83120
Wilkin83112
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48093
Red Lake4017
Traverse3765
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370840

Reported Deaths: 6048
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58221639
Linn21202339
Scott20303247
Black Hawk16106312
Woodbury15237230
Johnson1461485
Dubuque13505211
Dallas1128899
Pottawattamie11219174
Story1071148
Warren583791
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553693
Sioux516974
Webster515194
Muscatine4878106
Marshall486576
Des Moines467271
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper420972
Plymouth402881
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300857
Henry294237
Bremer288161
Carroll286752
Boone268434
Crawford268240
Benton259655
Washington256951
Dickinson249444
Mahaska232352
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211871
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198135
Page194522
Buchanan193433
Cedar192223
Hardin187544
Fayette186543
Wright185840
Hamilton181851
Harrison180073
Clayton171057
Butler166135
Madison164619
Mills163724
Floyd163242
Cherokee159438
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152752
Hancock150234
Iowa149824
Winnebago144431
Cass139155
Calhoun138913
Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union129935
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124717
Franklin123323
Guthrie123132
Humboldt119526
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Ringgold56324
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon53511
Adams3444
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