Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes: Time to break up company

He says CEO Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into an innovation-suffocating monopoly.

Associated Press

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says it’s time to break up the social media behemoth.

In a New York Times opinion piece published Thursday, Hughes said CEO Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into an innovation-suffocating monopoly.

Hughes called Zuckerberg’s power “unprecedented and un-American” and said his co-founder’s focus on growth “led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks.”

Hughes roomed with Zuckerberg at Harvard and left Facebook in 2007 to campaign for Barack Obama. Hughes said he no longer has any ownership in Facebook or any other social media company.

“I feel a sense of anger and responsibility,” he wrote, lamenting the company’s “slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news.”

Facebook has been under fire for an ever-expanding list of privacy and security lapses and for endangering democracy by failing to effectively combat the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech by extremist groups .

Facebook’s chief spokesman, Nick Clegg, responded to Hughes’ criticisms with a statement saying, “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.”

Zuckerberg has been vague, however, on exactly what kind of regulation he favors.

Critics including Hughes believe Facebook has acquired too much power to continue intact. Hughes’ call echoes a proposal by Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who also wants to splinter Amazon and Google into separate companies.

In the opinion piece, Hughes called Facebook a monopoly that should be forced to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram, with future acquisitions banned for several years.

Hughes also called for a new federal agency to regulate tech companies whose “first mandate is to protect privacy.”

Debate has begun on a federal privacy protection bill. California has a law that takes effect in January and European Union privacy rules are now a year old.

Meanwhile, Facebook faces a fine of as much as $5 billion from the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations. But critics say the amount is but a slap on the wrist for a company that had $55.8 billion in revenue last year.

Hughes says he liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012, the year he became publisher of The New Republic. He said he does not invest in any social media companies.

Last year, Hughes published a book advocating a universal basic income. In 2017, Forbes put his net worth at more than $400 million.

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