Chris Hughes gives scathing NYT op-ed calling for Facebook to be broken up
Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes has blasted his former company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg as “dangerous” and “un-American” and is calling for the social media giant to be “broken up.”
In a scathing New York Times op-ed, Hughes slammed Zuckerberg for being too powerful, saying “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.”
Hughes says that Zuckerberg has created a social media monopoly and has no accountability due to the lack of federal regulations which has given him “unilateral control” over free speech and censorship.
Mark Zuckerberg owns a 60 percent share in Facebook, and Hughes says he has surrounded himself with people who reinforce his beliefs rather than challenging them, saying the company’s board acts more like advisors to the CEO rather than taking any form of control.
Facebook has been dogged in scandal after scandal, but more recently, came under fire for banning several prominent conservatives from the platform, leading to further allegations of political bias and election meddling.
Last year, a former editor of Snopes, Brooke Binkowski, spoke out accusing Facebook of paying “fact checkers” as a means to push “propaganda.”
“You’re not doing journalism anymore. You’re doing propaganda,” she told the Guardian describing the fact-checking process for Facebook, adding, “They threw us under the bus at every opportunity.”
According to the Daily Mail, Hughes, 35, helped build Facebook from the beginning and was a key creator in products like the social network’s News Feed.
He left the company in 2007 to join Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign and says he liquidated his Facebook stock in 2012.
Now, Hughes says he has watched with horror as the company he helped create has grown into a behemoth through the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, threatening to crush free speech and stifle competitive innovation.
According to Hughes, the biggest threat at Facebook is Zuckerberg’s “unilateral control over speech.”
“There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people,” he continued.
“Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,” Hughes wrote.
Hughes said that Zuckerberg has virtually unlimited control over algorithms that determine what each of billions of Facebook users sees in their News Feed, what privacy settings they can use, and even which messages they receive on the platform.
“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 wrote.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, responded to Hughes’ op-ed in a statement to DailyMail.com.
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup 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,” he continued.
“That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for.
“Indeed, he is meeting Government leaders this week to further that work.”
In addition to publishing the op-ed, Hughes sat for a television interview that aired on NBC Nightly News on Thursday.
“The reason I am speaking out is because I think Facebook has become too big, too powerful,” he explained in a preview clip of the interview.
Hughes added of Zuckerberg: “He is extremely powerful because he has no boss, because there has been no regulatory agency from the federal government.”
In his op-ed, Hughes calls on the federal government to wield the monopoly-busting powers granted by the Sherman Antitrust Act and subsequent laws, which led to the break up of Standard Oil in 1911 and AT&T in 1982.
Regulators have been hesitant to scrutinize Facebook’s overwhelming market share, however, because existing antitrust regulations are aimed at keeping prices low for consumers.
Since Facebook is free for users, and instead makes money by mining personal data to sell targeted ads, the traditional impetus for federal intervention has been lacking.
Hughes argues that Facebook’s dominance is a real threat to consumers, however, due to the company’s ability to stifle competition and innovation.
He says that Facebook should have never been allowed to purchase competing platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, which combined give the company command over 80 percent of global social media revenue, according to Hughes’ estimate.
Hughes believes that nothing short of forcing Facebook to split up and sell off Instagram and WhatsApp would be effective at reining the company in.
“Facebook isn’t afraid of a few more rules,” he wrote.
“It’s afraid of an antitrust case and of the kind of accountability that real government oversight would bring.”
Others join calls to break up Facebook
Hughes joins U.S. lawmakers who have also urged anti-trust action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.
Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over its data sharing practices and misinformation spread on its networks.
In March, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren vowed to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google if elected president, to promote competition in the tech sector.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power over our economy, our society, & our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private info for profit, hurt small businesses & stifled innovation. It’s time to #BreakUpBigTech,” Warren said on Twitter on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has also called for the creation of “more, and fairer” social media companies in response to discrimination he alleges he has faced as a Republican from Twitter.
So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook! https://t.co/eHX3Z5CMXb
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2019
Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said in a statement that he agreed that in retrospect that U.S. regulators “should not have approved Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram & WhatsApp in 2012.”
He said that “the way forward is to heavily scrutinize future mergers and to ensure no company has anti-competitive platform privileges.”
Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” Hughes said.
“And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.”
Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard with the company’s Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz.
He quit Facebook in 2007 and later said in a LinkedIn post that he made half a billion dollars for his three years of work.
“It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility,” said Hughes.