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‘Unprecedented and Un-American’: Facebook Co-Founder Calls on Government to Break Company Up

May 9, 2019, 2:45 PM UTC

Chris Hughes, who co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg out of their Harvard University dorm, is joining the chorus of people calling on the government to break up the social media giant.

In an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times, Hughes said the company (which he left a decade ago) has become too big and too powerful. And Zuckerberg, he said, has no checks on his control of it.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” wrote Hughes, who said he still considers Zuckerberg a friend. “[He] is a good, kind person. 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.”

Hughes proposed breaking Facebook into several companies, spinning off Instagram and WhatsApp independent bodies once again. And he called for a new government agency to oversee tech companies, with a mandate to protect privacy.

Facebook, he said, has grown to the point where it faces no market-based accountability. Whatever the scandal, people eventually move on because there aren’t any viable competitors. Hughes took the Federal Trade Commission to task for allowing Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp—and said when the company hasn’t acquired competitors, it has used its size to shut out or copy upcoming social media sites.

He also expressed grave concerns over the company’s influence over national conversations.

“The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech,” he wrote. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”

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