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Should big tech companies like Facebook be broken up?

NYU professor Scott Galloway calls for people who are concerned about privacy to elect leaders who will rein in the tech giants.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is “probably a good guy,” NYU professor Scott Galloway says — but that doesn’t change the fact that he has an enormous amount of power, was not elected to that position and faces no checks or term limits.

“History is littered with terrible events started by people who started out good, but had too much power,” Galloway said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. “If you buy into the American way, you buy into checks and balances. We’re going to have Trump for a maximum of six years. Putin will be dead in 10 to 20. Mark Zuckerberg could be around for 70 years.”

CalSTRS called him a dictator,” he added. “I think that’s being unfair to dictators. Most of them are going to go away!”

He said that despite the negative impact they may have on the world, it’s not the job of businesses like Facebook, Google and Amazon to leave money on the table that could go to shareholders. Rather, it’s the job of citizens to elect leaders who can rein in the tech giants with regulation and, possibly, by using antitrust laws. Unfortunately, he noted, Zuckerberg’s recent Congressional hearings displayed a total “lack of domain expertise and will in Washington.”

“A much better business model for General Motors and its employees and its shareholders would be if they could pour their mercury into the river,” Galloway said. “And we said, no, you’re now liable for that mercury, and we regulated them.”

The result of so much concentrated power is that erstwhile rivals like Snap are “the walking dead,” he argued.

“If the four largest retailers — Walmart, Kroger’s, Home Depot and CVS — got together every morning and said, ‘We’re going to focus all our resources on putting No. 5, Target, out of business,’ Target would go out of business,” Galloway said. “That’s what’s going on with Snap. The four biggest players — Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and [Facebook] Messenger — every morning meet and say, ‘How do we put these guys out of business?’”

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On the new podcast, Galloway said breaking up the big tech firms “could unleash another 20 to 30 years of unbelievable innovation and shareholder growth.” He said it’s “ridiculous” that the Justice Department chose to go after AT&T’s attempted merger with Time Warner when the same criteria for that intervention would have merited the breakup of both Google and Amazon a decade ago.

Later in the show, Galloway noted that there are plenty of things to dislike about Apple, “the largest tax avoider in the history of corporate America.” But the company’s brand scored a major win when CEO Tim Cook criticized Facebook and Google’s attitudes about privacy on “Revolution.”

“They saw an opening, strategically, to put their finger in the wound of privacy for the other guys,” he said. “He talked about it as a human right, he’s super-likable, you get the sense he really believes what he’s saying. And they’re well positioned because they’ve gone the other way to say, ‘We don’t even want your data.’ To a certain extent, Apple has brilliantly taken advantage of the situation and starched their hat white.”

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