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'Time to Break Up Facebook': Co-Founder Says Its Power Makes It 'Dangerous' for All These Reasons

05-10-2019

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says its time to "break up" the social media giant and hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable. 

Hughes explained in a lengthy New York Times Op-Ed essay Thursday that he believes Facebook is "dangerous" and should be regulated by the government. 

Hughes created Facebook with Zuckerberg 15 years ago when they were both undergraduates at Harvard. What started out as a social networking site for students became a global phenomenon with billions of users. 

Hughes left Facebook in 2007 and now believes his former business partner is "too powerful for his own good."

"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," he wrote. "It is time to break up Facebook."

"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," Hughes continued. 

He claimed Facebook's board is more of an "advisory committee" than an overseer, and "Mark alone" can decide Facebook's algorithms, privacy settings, and even which messages people send or receive on the platform. 

While Hughes does not criticize Facebook for cracking down on free speech, he says Zuckerberg "sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive."

"I'm angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. 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," he said. "The government must hold Mark accountable."

Hughes also accused Facebook of copying the ideas of other social networking sites like Snapchat, which has dropped dramatically in popularity and usage. 

"He can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it."

Hughes maintains that Zuckerberg is "a good, kind person" who has a talent for business, but holds too much power to control cultural attitudes, privacy, markets, and the spread of ideas.  

"I don't blame Mark for his quest for domination. He has demonstrated nothing more nefarious than the virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur. Yet he has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice. It's on our government to ensure that we never lose the magic of the invisible hand," he said.

Hughes suggests the government should not only break up Facebook, but regulate tech companies. 

"We need a new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies," he wrote, saying that "its first mandate should be to protect privacy."

"Because Facebook so dominates social networking, it faces no market-based accountability. This means that every time Facebook messes up, we repeat an exhausting pattern: first outrage, then disappointment and, finally, resignation," Hughes said. 

Facebook responded to the 5,000 word op-ed hours after it was published. 

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability," Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president for global affairs and communication, wrote in a statement. "But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company."

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