Chris Hughes, who helped established Facebook after meeting Zuckerberg at Harvard University, wrote in the New York Times that Facebook’s acquisition of rival platforms had given Zuckerberg unparalleled power over speech.
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“Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – that billions of people use every day,” Hughes wrote.
“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.
“It is time to break up Facebook.”
Facebook has more than 2 billion monthly users, according to its most recent earnings report, while WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, are each used by more than 1 billion people. Hughes’s appeal for tighter regulation comes as some lawmakers are calling for big tech companies to be reined in.
The Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has pledged that if she is elected president she will break up Facebook, Amazon and Google, criticizing “anti-competitive mergers” such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Hughes left Facebook in 2007 to work on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and sold his Facebook shares in 2012 – for half a billion dollars – but said he still felt “a sense of anger and responsibility” at the company’s omnipotence.
“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 2 billion people,” Hughes wrote.
Facebook has been plagued by scandal over the past year. In March 2018 it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and Brexit campaigners, had harvested millions of Facebook profiles to target users with personalized political advertisements. Just last month Facebook admitted to “unintentionally” uploading the address books of 1.5 million users without consent.
Hughes said the government should create a new agency to regulate technology companies and create “acceptable guidelines” for free speech on social media.
“If we don’t have public servants shaping these policies, corporations will,” he said.
“I don’t blame Mark for his quest for domination. He 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.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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