Published: Fri, May 10, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Facebook cofounder says it's time to break up company

Facebook cofounder says it's time to break up company

Its first mandate should be to protect privacy.

Now he says the company he helped create needs to be. His article, titled "It's time to break up Facebook", appeared in The New York Times' Opinion section on Thursday.

Facebook Inc. quickly rejected his call.

The rest of the lengthy piece goes into great detail about how Facebook got so big, why Zuckerberg isn't up to the job of keeping the company reined in, and even how the United States became so lax on flagrantly monopolistic companies.

In Hughes' view, Zuckerberg's level of control over speech is "unilateral", "problematic", "unprecedented" and "un-American". If a competitor crops up, Zuckerberg can simply choose to shut it down "by acquiring, blocking or copying it" in the manner it did with the Instagram and WhatsApp mergers.

"It's been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven't worked at the company in a decade", writes Hughes in a New York Times op-ed published May 9. One of the best ways to ding Facebook is to make the company responsible for the content users post, according to Republican Sen.

But critics say the amount is but a slap on the wrist for a company that had $US55.8 billion in revenue previous year.

In one of a number of scandals to hit the company, Facebook is accused of inappropriately sharing information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. "He sets the rules of how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive", Hughes wrote, adding that Facebook's staff, himself included, should have thought more about how the News Feed algorithm could "change our culture, influence ectoplasm and empower elections and empower nationalist leaders". He said that his team should have thought more carefully about how that might be used. Among the projects he focused on was the development of Facebook's News Feed.

Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.

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Chris Hughes, 35, who left Facebook in 2007, said that a quest for domination by the co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, 34, led him to "sacrifice security and civility for clicks".

He also said he worries that the people around Zuckerberg always agree with him and never question his ideas.

Faced with accusations of censorship and privacy violations, Hughes pointed out that the reputations of Facebook and Zuckerberg have taken "a nose-dive" in recent years. He also wants Congress to create a new agency to regulate technology in addition to the FTC. "It's time to #BreakUpBigTech", Warren said on Twitter on Thursday. He also called for the Justice Department's antitrust division to launch an investigation.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a presidential candidate, has already called for breaking up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc., calling them anti-competitive behemoths that crowd out competition.

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said in a statement that he agreed that in retrospect that US regulators "should not have approved Facebook's acquisition of Instagram & WhatsApp in 2012".

Hughes said the break-up, under existing anti-trust laws, would allow better privacy protections for social media users and would cost U.S. authorities nearly nothing.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability", Nick Clegg, the company's vice president of global affairs and communication, said in the statement.

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