Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and other panelists debate how to rein in Big Tech

In May, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes sparked a flurry of discussion with a New York Times op-ed calling for the dismantling of Facebook. In a Latham & Watkins Forum in September, he joined Professor Florencia Marotta-Wurgler ’01 and George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School Professor Abbott (Tad) Lipsky Jr. for a lively conversation about the need to regulate and rein in companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

Chris Hughes speaking on a panel at the Latham & Watkins Forum bout Reigning in Big Tech
Chris Hughes

Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation Eleanor Fox ’61 moderated the discussion. Hughes noted that in writing his New York Times piece, he had consulted Fox for her expertise in antitrust and competition policy. 

Professor Eleanor Fox speaking on a panel at the Latham & Watkins Forum on Reigning in Big Tech
Eleanor Fox '61

When he outlined his idea, Hughes said, Fox asked, “So you’re going to call to break up the company into three parts?” Hughes said yes. Fox’s response was measured, he recalled: “Well, that would be big,” she said.

Selected Remarks: 

Chris Hughes: “In a time when our politics could not be more divided and we can barely get Republicans and Democrats to agree on anything, we have an astonishing consensus that corporations like Google, Facebook, and others have become too large, too powerful, and it’s time to rein them in.”

Tad About Lipski speaking on a panel at the Latham & Watkins Forum about reigning in big tech
Abbott (Tad) Lipsky Jr.

Abbott (Tad) Lipsky Jr.: “This is not the first time that the whole question of government control of private power and monopoly power has been considered as a very, very major public policy issue…. The United States, on the last day of Lyndon Johnson’s administration, brought a massive antitrust, monopolization case against IBM. After 13 years of discovery and trial and so on, it was basically dismissed as being without merit. In that 13-year period, IBM had transitioned from a company perceived to be incomparable and aggressive and uncontrollable… to a shadow [that was] not even part of the dialogue.”

Professor Florencia Marotta-Wurgler speaking on a panel at the Latham & Watkins forum about reigning in big tech
Florencia Marotta-Wurgler '01

Florencia Marotta-Wurgler ’01: “The most valuable asset that these [tech companies] have is not only your attention but also information about you, about who you are, about how you shop, about where you are, with whom you interact—so the amount of data that is collected about you is enormous, and not only that, the information is shared in different ways and combined, and consumers many times know very little about where [their data is].”

Watch the full video of the event:

Posted October 3, 2019