Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says it is time to break up the company he helped create.
“Mark [Zuckerberg] may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power. The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people,” Hughes wrote in a lengthy Op-Ed in the New York Times published Thursday. “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, who co-founded the company with Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room and later became a billionaire from his early investments, urged the federal government to make use of antitrust legislation to split up the social media giant, which Hughes now labels a “powerful monopoly.”
Hughes specifically urged that the company be ordered to spin off its Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions.
“Facebook should be separated into multiple companies. The F.T.C., in conjunction with the Justice Department, should enforce antitrust laws by undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years,” wrote Hughes. “[Zuckerberg] 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.”
In a statement, Facebook VP of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg responded: “Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company. 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. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work.”
Despite his early role in the company, Hughes has not played any active hand in management for more than a decade. He has used his wealth to fund a number of unrelated projects, including brief ownership of the opinion journal The New Republic from 2012-16 and funding an unsuccessful 2014 congressional campaign for his husband, Sean Eldridge, in upstate New York.
Once heralded as the future of communications, Facebook has been under growing scrutiny since the 2016 after the company acknowledged that it had been penetrated by foreign actors looking to influence the presidential elections. Since thenm the company has been buffeted by scandals ranging from user privacy to the proliferation of fake news to conservative charges of censorship on the platform.
There have been growing calls on Capitol Hill to regulate Facebook in some form or fashion, something Zuckerberg himself has suggested might even be appropriate.
“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” he said in a March 30 editorial in the Washington Post. “I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own.”