- 40% of Americans want to see antitrust action taken against Facebook.
- That’s according to a new Business Insider/INSIDER poll of US adults conducted by SurveyMonkey.
- Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes recently called for the Silicon Valley tech giant to be broken up, and the results may bolster these arguments.
- Facebook has pushed back against demands for anti-monopoly argument, calling for different regulation instead.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes wants to see the tech giant broken up. A large segment Americans do too.
In a recent SurveyMonkey survey of US adults conducted on behalf of Business Insider and INSIDER, 40% of respondents said they supported antitrust action against Facebook — and just 15% oppose it.
There have been mounting calls for the Silicon Valley social networking firm to face regulatory scrutiny in recent months, and last week Hughes inflamed those calls by writing a 6,000-word op-ed for The New York Times that argued the company he helped build has grown too large and powerful.
Facebook has strongly argued against antitrust action — but Business Insider’s data indicates that large swathes of Americans already support the idea, and may bolster the arguments of leftwing politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have championed the push for anti-monopoly action against Facebook and the other tech giants.
Following the publication of Hughes’ essay, INSIDER surveyed 1,072 people’s attitudes towards antitrust action against Facebook through SurveyMonkey Audience. Around 17% said they strongly supported antitrust action, and another 12% and 11% supported or somewhat supported it respectively.
Meanwhile, 28% of respondents neither supported nor opposed antitrust action, 5% somewhat opposed, 4% opposed, and 5% strongly opposed. 17% of respondents didn’t know. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.12 percentage points. (Download the full data here.)
Support for clamping down on Facebook extends across party lines
Respondents in Business Insider’s poll were asked: "Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called on the federal government to start anti-trust action against the company and to break it up, such as requiring it to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram as separate companies. Do you oppose or support anti-trust action against Facebook?"
The answers were broadly similar regardless of demographic: Men were somewhat more likely to support antitrust action (23% strongly supported, versus 11% for women), while women were more likely to say they didn’t know (25% versus 8% for male respondents); and older respondents were more strongly supportive of antitrust action and less likely to say they didn’t know.
The results also show there is bipartisan support for antitrust action, with both Republican and Democrat-affiliated respondents giving largely similar responses (Democrats were a little more supportive).
Facebook spokesperson Monique Hall declined to comment on the data, but pointed Business Insider towards previous polls of Americans on the subject, both of which predated the publication of Hughes’ op-ed and the subsequent public debate on the possibility of antitrust action.
In one Wall Street Journal/NBC poll from March 2019, attitudes towards breaking up tech companies depended on the framing of leading statements about breaking up big tech firms. In one, 47% supported break-ups and 50% opposed it; in another, 68% said there shouldn’t be action, and 28% said there should. These questions grouped together multiple large tech companies — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — rather than addressing Facebook specifically, as Business Insider’s poll did.
A CNN poll that Hall highlighted, also conducted in March, found that 42% of respondents supported greater government regulation of tech companies — but within that 42% group, 64% said that "those companies should not be forced to sell off any parts of their businesses."
That survey also didn’t specify Facebook in its questioning, referring only to "big technology companies" broadly, without giving names.
After Hughes’ op-ed was published last week, Facebook’s global head of comms Nick Clegg said in a statement: "Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company. 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."
The $518 billion company is currently also proactively building out its team of antitrust experts, hiring new lawyers and policy gurus with expertise in competition affairs as it tries to improve its lobbying efforts and bolster its legal apparatus against the potential threat, as Business Insider previously reported.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,127 respondents collected May 10-12, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.12 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.
Additional reporting by Walt Hickey.
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