Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes put out a strong plea for lawmakers and regulators to take apart the company. His piece appeared on Thursday in a New York Times op-ed.
Using his time and experience when he was with Facebook, he said the company they built has gained too much power for a private entity.
He said his fellow co-founder and current CEO Mark Zuckerberg has uncontrolled power due to his majority voting stake.
“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 in the NYT op-ed.
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company. Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting Government leaders this week to further that work,” Nick Clegg, Facebook VP of Global Affairs and Communications, said in a statement.
Hughes cited Zuckerberg and the company’s response to the spread of harmful, abusive content in Myanmar through the platform.
Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called it ethnic cleansing.
The op-ed piece is on the heels of Facebook prepping to unify its three major messaging platforms: Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Zuckerberg has set a new path for his company to be a private communications network.
The idea came after the company found bad foreign actors trying to sway voters before the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The integration of Facebook’s messaging platforms means the clock is ticking, Hughes wrote.
He said it would be harder for the Federal Trade Commission to break up the company if the merger pushes through.
“I don’t think these proposals were made in bad faith. But I do think they’re an attempt to head off the argument that regulators need to go further and break up the company. 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,” said Hughes.
FTC should break apart the three entities before Facebook weaves them together, he added.
Facebook acquires or copies companies if it cannot compete with them, Hughes said.
He cited Facebook’s copying of Snapchat’s Stories feature for Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook also blocked the video app Vine in 2012 from finding Facebook friends to cripple competition, he added.
Hughes said he liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012 and relinquished his shares from any social media company.
“Facebook is the perfect case on which to reverse course, precisely because Facebook makes its money from targeted advertising, meaning users do not pay to use the service. But it is not actually free, and it certainly isn’t harmless,” Hughes said, warning Google and Amazon for their business model.
Facebook is facing a possible hefty fine from the FTC of up to $5 billion for allegedly violating a 2011 consent decree that Hughes said the company snubbed.
Still, Facebook’s stock shot up the day it revealed the potential fine. It has increased around 45 percent this year with a market cap of $541 billion.
Hughes left Facebook in 2008 to help with the Barack Obama presidential campaign.
Read his full op-ed at The New York Times.