Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook, is calling for the company to be broken up and regulated by the federal government.
“The Facebook that exists today is not the Facebook that we founded in 2004,” Hughes told NBC News on Thursday, after publishing an Op-Ed in The New York Times titled, “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook.”
“And the one that we have today I think is far too big. It’s far too powerful. And most importantly, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is not accountable,” Hughes added.
The former dormmate of Zuckerberg helped launch Facebook while the two were students at Harvard University.
Hughes left the company in 2007 to help with Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and sold all his shares in 2012 when Facebook became a publicly held corporation.
“Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day,” he wrote in his Op-Ed for The Times.
The former Facebook executive went on to argue that Zuckerberg has too much control over what people see on the social media platform.
“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,” Hughes wrote.
“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.”
Hughes sees himself as somewhat at fault for not foreseeing the dangers of the News Feed algorithm.
“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,” he wrote.
The 35-year-old noted that Zuckerberg personally owns 60 percent of Facebook’s shares and controls almost 70 percent of the voting shares.
“I don’t think that Mark Zuckerberg can fix Facebook,” he told NBC News. “I think only government can — by making the market more competitive, by breaking it up, and by creating these privacy restrictions.”
In a video published by The Times, Hughes further made his case, pointing out “there hasn’t been a single major media platform launched since 2011.”
“Breaking up Facebook isn’t a punishment for its economic success; it’s a way to make sure other new companies can compete,” he said.
Hughes specifically called for the Federal Trade Commission to force Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp.
He also contended a new federal agency should be created to monitor social media companies, saying these corporations cannot be trusted to make free speech decisions without oversight.
Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg responded to Hughes’ call to break up the company, arguing that accountability, not destruction is the answer.
NEW: Facebook statement from Nick Clegg re: Chris Hughes oped pic.twitter.com/VAZpQturMs
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) May 9, 2019
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company,” Clegg said.
“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. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work.”
Republican lawmakers have accused Facebook of making algorithm changes that negatively impact the reach of conservative news outlets on the platform, but Democrats have also found fault with the social media company.
The Washington Post reported that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has called for the breaking up of Facebook, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, her rival for the nomination, “talks constantly about the danger of monopolies on the campaign trail.”
Many congressional Democrats became irate with Facebook after the company’s policy chief, Joel Kaplan, came out in support of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, following allegations of sexual assault stemming from Kavanaugh’s high school years in the 1980s.
Kaplan sat behind Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing last September.
“The donnybrook strained some of the company’s relationships on the Hill and put in stark relief for congressional Democrats that Facebook is neither their friend nor ally,” according to The Post.
“Facebook reinforced this view the week before last by hiring another Republican legal operative who worked with Kavanaugh during George W. Bush’s administration to be their general counsel.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.