A Facebook co-founder has said the government should break up the social media giant, to rein in Mark Zuckerberg’s “unprecedented and un-American” power over communication, according to The Guardian.
In a New York Times opinion piece, Chris Hughes, who helped establish Facebook while at Harvard with Zuckerberg 15 years ago, said Zuckerberg’s influence is “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,” citing the company’s ownership of platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram. The platforms see billions of daily users between them.
Thanks to Zuckerberg’s control of around 60 percent of voting shares, Hughes says the company’s board operates “more like an advisory committee than an overseer.”
According to Hughes, “the government must hold Mark accountable” and an expected $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission is not sufficient.
“It is time to break up Facebook,” he wrote.
He added that plans to integrate messaging services on the three platforms will make it harder to break up the company, and encouraged officials to take action as soon as possible.
“There is no precedent for [Zuckerberg’s] ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of 2 billion people,” Hughes said.
In her presidential campaign, Elizabeth Warren has said she would break up Facebook if elected, and has passed legislation to limit the power of tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
And in a CNBC interview on Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal voiced support for breaking up Facebook.
“The acquisitions of Instagram and WhatApp need to be unwound and there needs to be Department of Justice scrutiny about appropriate antitrust remedies,” he said.
Blumenthal called for the Justice Department to launch an antitrust investigation.
Facebook was quick to reject the argument, saying the government should focus instead on regulation the internet more broadly.
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company,” according to a statement from Facebook spokesperson Nick Clegg.
Hughes liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012 for half a billion dollars. But he discussed feeling a sense of “a sense of anger and responsibility” over the company’s actions.
Facebook has faced mounting criticism in recent years for its role in spreading misinformation that may have affected the 2016 election, and last year, for the privacy issues raised by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In that incident, the personal data of millions of Facebook users ended up in the hands of the political data analytics firm without their consent.