Facebook is weathering a storm: The dominant global player in social networks has witnessed increasingly worrisome revelations about its role in the 2016 U.S. elections, raising concerns about the company’s power.
This has coincided with a revival of interest in antitrust policies on the left and a growing suspicion of Facebook’s liberal politics on the right. Meanwhile, a growing body of research points to the psychological harm caused, especially to young people, by the addictive qualities of Facebook’s mobile app. All of this has made Facebook the least loved of the biggest American technology companies — and led founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to pledge to “fix” Facebook. And who better to do that, he says, than Facebook itself?
History would suggest otherwise.
The U.S. economy has seen a litany of super-successful businesses that faced backlashes when they got too big. John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford: each discovered that the economic benefits of large-scale enterprise sooner or later incurred regulatory costs. Neither promises to reform, nor political lobbying, nor high-profile philanthropy sufficed to ward off the backlash.