It’s time to break up Facebook, says company’s co-founder Chris Hughes
Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, has called for the social network to be broken up. He joins U.S. lawmakers who have requested anti-trust action to divide big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Thursday, Hughes, who co-founded Facebook along with his Harvard roommate Mark Zuckerberg some 15 years ago, called Zuckerberg’s power “unprecedented and un-American.”
“Mark is a good, kind person,” Hughes says, “but his focus on growth “led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks”.
He also commented on Zuckerberg’s power within the company as the majority of the Facebook shares owned by him meant that there’s no internal check on his power. Also, there’s no government agency that is devoted to supervise a company like Facebook.
Zuckerberg’s influence is “staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,” Hughes wrote.
“He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it,” he added.
“I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders.
“And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them,” Hughes said.
Further, Hughes also wrote that the government must hold Zuckerberg accountable. “For too long, lawmakers have marveled at Facebook’s explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive.
“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well-intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.
“It is time to break up Facebook,” he added.
In addition to breaking up Facebook, Hughes calls for the U.S. to come up with new privacy legislation that controls what data Facebook can collect in the country. He also stated the need for a new federal agency that would offer oversight, protect users’ privacy, and create social media guidelines for speech.
The largest social network, Facebook has more than two billion users across the world. Also, Facebook-owned platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, are each used by more than one billion people worldwide.
Hughes said that the Federal Trade Commission should reverse Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram to increase competition in the messaging and social media markets.
He also explains that Facebook controls about 80 percent of “the world’s social networking revenue,” with two-thirds of adults using Facebook itself, another third using Instagram and another fifth using WhatsApp.
Later on Thursday, Facebook responded to the call from Hughes.
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company,” Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg said in a statement.
“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.”