Facebook on Thursday rejected an article in which its co-founder Chris Hughes called for the break-up of the company’s monopoly and greater government regulation on its work, The New York Times reported. The social media company accepted that with success comes accountability, but said “you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company”.
Hughes had founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 as Harvard graduates, but left in 2007 to focus on other engagements. His article, titled “It’s time to break up Facebook”, appeared in The New York Times’ Opinion section on Thursday.
In the article, Hughes argued that Zuckerberg’s influence is “staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government”. “The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech,” Hughes wrote. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”
Hughes wrote Zuckerberg is a “good, kind person”, but his focus on growth “led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks”.
The government must hold Zuckerberg accountable, Hughes said. “For too long, lawmakers have marvelled at Facebook’s explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive,” he said. In a nation that traditionally reins in monopolies regardless of the intention of those firms, “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American”, said Hughes.
He said the Federal Trade Commission had made its biggest mistake by allowing Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. The Federal Trade Commission is tasked with promoting competition and discouraging monopolies in the United States.
Facebook has used its position to “shut out competing companies or has copied their technology”, he said, adding that as a result, would-be competitors cannot raise the money to take on Facebook.
Hughes proposed two solutions: one, to separate Facebook into multiple companies, and second, to bring in stronger government regulation. “We need a new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies,” he said.
Facebook had acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. The company has been embroiled in data privacy concerns and political implications of its algorithms in the last few years.