By Rex Crum The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes said in a NY Times op-ed that he hasn't worked at the company in 10 years, but that following a series of scandals involving Facebook's use of individuals personal information, security issues and a potential $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission, he feels "a sense of anger and responsibility" about what Facebook has become, and why it should be broken up.
The Mercury News
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has added his name to the list of officials, politicians and citizens calling for the social-networking giant to be broken up due to its overwhelming size and dominance in people's everyday lives.
In an expansive opinion piece in the New York Times, Hughes cited multiple reasons why federal regulators should take the same approach to Facebook as was applied to monopolies such as Standard Oil and AT&T and split the company apart.
Among those reasons Hughes mentioned were Facebook's ownership of two other popular social-media platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp, and the fact that even though Facebook is a public company, Zuckerberg's 60-percent ownership of the company's voting shares leaves him with "unprecedented and un-American" power to set Facebook's direction and policies.
"Mark's influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government," wrote Hughes. "Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook's algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. 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."
In a statement given to this news organization, Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, said that the company "accepts that with success comes accountability," but that splitting up Facebook is not the answer to the issues that Hughes' raised in his op-ed.
"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. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for."
Clegg said as an example of how serious Facebook sees its role in the social-networking space, Zuckerberg "is meeting government leaders this week to further that work."
Hughes has a long history with Facebook. Along with Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 when the three were students at Harvard University. Hughes said in his op-ed that he hasn't worked at the company in 10 years, but that following a series of scandals involving Facebook's use of individuals personal information, security issues and a potential $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission, he feels "a sense of anger and responsibility" about what Facebook has become, and why it should be broken up.
"I'm worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them," Hughes wrote. "The government must hold Mark accountable. For too long, lawmakers have marveled at Facebook's explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive."
With his ties to Facebook, Hughes has become one of the highest-profile voices to call for the company to be broken apart. His views echo statements from advocacy groups that want the FTC to split Facebook up, and for shareholders to not vote for Zuckerberg to remain on the company's board of directors.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also publicly said Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, should be broken up because they have "too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy."
U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents parts of Santa Clara and Alameda Counties, said in a statement the Hughes is "a thoughtful voice for those left out of the digital economy," and that "in retrospect, the FTC should not have approved Facebook's acquisition of Instagram & WhatsApp in 2012. I believe the way forward is to heavily scrutinize future mergers and to ensure no company has anti-competitive platform privileges."
Despite his harsh words for Zuckerberg and Facebook, Hughes still called his college friend "a good, kind person." But Hughes added that "it's (Zuckerberg's) very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic."