Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called for the company to be broken up by regulators, calling CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s power “unprecedented and un-American.”
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Hughes, who is now co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute, cited the company’s “sloppy privacy practices” as well as its “slow response to Russian agents” and enabling of “violent rhetoric and fake news.”
“The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech. There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize, and even censor the conversations of two billion people,” Hughes wrote.
Hughes wrote that the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice should undo Facebook’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, and called on the U.S. government to form a new agency to regulate tech companies, protect privacy, and create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media.
“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,” Hughes said.
He noted how the company largely ignored a 2011 consent decree it entered into regarding privacy concerns and said fines in the billions of dollars were not an effective deterrent.
Hughes also accused the company of imitating products launched by would-be rivals, stifling investment and competition.
Zuckerberg has signaled openness to regulation, but Hughes said such statements were an attempt to preempt tougher breakup talk.
“Facebook isn’t afraid of a few more rules. It’s afraid of an antitrust case and of the kind of accountability that real government oversight would bring.”
Hughes has not worked at Facebook in over a decade, liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012, and does not invest directly in any social media companies.
Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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