- The Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has called for Facebook to be broken up.
- Hughes, who launched Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, wrote a dramatic op-ed article for The New York Times arguing that the firm had prioritised growth over its users and had underestimated its democratic influence.
- He said Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp should be divided into three separate publicly traded companies.
- He added that Zuckerberg “needs to have some check on his power” as CEO, chairman, and controlling shareholder.
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Chris Hughes, who founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, has turned on his former business partner in a blistering New York Times op-ed article.
In a nearly 6,500-word essay for The Times, Hughes – who made nearly $US1 billion when Facebook went public in 2012 – said the social network must be broken up to protect users and boost competition in the market.
Hughes wrote that the giant Cambridge Analytica data breach and election interference in 2016 made him alive to what he called the “dangers of Facebook’s monopoly.” A familiar cycle of scandal has since set in, he added. “Every time Facebook messes up, we repeat an exhausting pattern: first outrage, then disappointment and, finally, resignation,” he said.
Hughes said that Zuckerberg had created a “leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice” and that his “unprecedented and un-American” personal power was almost totally unchecked. Zuckerberg is Facebook’s CEO, chairman, and controlling shareholder.
“Mark is a good, kind person,” Hughes said. “But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections, and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.”
He added: “Mark 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 said Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp should be divided into three publicly traded companies. Over time, Zuckerberg and other executives should “probably be required to divest their management shares,” he added. Facebook should also be prohibited from making further acquisitions, he said.
The Facebook cofounder said legislators needed to move quickly with Zuckerberg working to stitch together the back ends of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp as part of his plans to boost end-to-end encryption and make the company more privacy-focused.
Hughes also expressed support for the creation of a “new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies.” A top priority for this new regulator would be protecting user privacy. Facebook is among a slew of Silicon Valley giants already calling for tougher privacy laws following the success of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018.
“The biggest winners would be the American people,” Hughes said of a breakup. “Imagine a competitive market in which they could choose among one network that offered higher privacy standards, another that cost a fee to join but had little advertising, and another that would allow users to customise and tweak their feeds as they saw fit.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.