Facebook Co-Founder Calls for Government to Break Up Mark Zuckerberg's Empire

Daniel Fowler
May 10, 2019

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

"The most problematic aspect of Facebook's power is Mark's unilateral control over speech", Hughes wrote in a New York Times editorial.

Mr Hughes shared a room with Mr Zuckerberg at Harvard University in the United States and left Facebook in 2007 to campaign for Barack Obama.

"It is time to break up Facebook", added Hughes who now works as Co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.

Hughes said Facebook is a monopoly and should be forced to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram.

Citing the developer's inability or unwillingness to be more active in stopping the spread of misinformation, hate speech and calls for violence, Hughes says Facebook can not be allowed to continue operating in its current fashion.

In this file photo from April 11, 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy.

A co-founder of Facebook has called for the government to break-up the company, warning that Mark Zuckerberg's power is "unprecedented and un-American".

In the Times Thursday, Hughes invoked the Sherman Antitrust Act and called for the federal government to rediscover "energetic antitrust enforcement".

Hughes said the government should create a new agency to regulate technology companies and create "acceptable guidelines" for free speech on social media. Otherwise, he noted, Facebook could hold on to its monopoly status for decades.

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In March, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google, if elected president. It's not that Zuckerberg is a bad person, he writes, but "he's human" and his focus on growth "led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks".

He said "the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users' data into a political consulting firm's lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention - dominate the headlines". He takes serious issue with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allowing Facebook to acquire Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, thereby sealing the company's hegemony in the social media sphere.

Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard with Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz.

"I don't blame Mark for his quest for domination", Hughes wrote.

Hughes joins USA lawmakers who have also urged anti-trust action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.

"The way forward is to heavily scrutinize future mergers and to ensure no company has anti-competitive platform privileges", Khanna said.

Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the news came out about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He proposes Facebook be split into separate companies - undoing the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and banning any more acquisitions.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The letter also asked questions about consumer privacy protections and if it had information about users' creditworthiness.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has said he'd hit tech companies with antitrust violations or fraud charges, arguing that they unfairly censor right-leaning speech.

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