Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called for federal regulators to break up the company, saying that CEO Mark Zuckerberg is too powerful and that the company is an effective monopoly.
‘It is time to break up Facebook,’ Hughes, who was Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, wrote in a searing op-ed for the New York Times on Thursday. ‘Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.’
Hughes, 35, helped build Facebook from the beginning, and was a key creator in products like the social network’s New Feed. He left the company in 2007 to join Barack Obama‘s first presidential campaign, and says he liquidated his Facebook stock in 2012.
Now, Hughes says he has watched with horror as the company he helped create has grown into a behemoth that threatens to crush free speech and stifle competitive innovation.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called for federal regulators to break up the company, saying that CEO Mark Zuckerberg is too powerful and Facebook is a monopoly
Hughes (left) is seen with Zuckerberg in Palo Alto in the early days of Facebook. The pair were college roommates and collaborated on the creation of Facebook
Zuckerberg testifies before Congress last year. Hughes says that federal regulators need to intervene immediately and force Facebook to break up into separate companies
According to Hughes, the most dire threat at Facebook is Zuckerberg’s ‘unilateral control over speech.’
‘There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people,’ he continued.
‘Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,’ Hughes wrote.
Hughes said that Zuckerberg has virtually unlimited control over algorithms that determine what each of billions of Facebook users sees in their News Feed, what privacy settings they can use, and even which messages they receive on the platform.
‘He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it,’ Hughes wrote.
Facebook did not immediately reply to a message from DailyMail.com seeking a response to Hughes’ op-ed.
Zuckerberg speaks at the F8 conference last month. Hughes writes that the most dire threat at Facebook is Zuckerberg’s ‘unilateral control over speech’
In addition to publishing the op-ed, Hughes sat for a television interview that will air on NBC Nightly News on Thursday.
‘The reason I am speaking out is because I think Facebook has become too big, too powerful,’ he explained in a preview clip of the interview.
Hughes added of Zuckerberg: ‘He is extremely powerful because he has no boss, because there has been no regulatory agency from the federal government.’
In his op-ed, Hughes calls on the federal government to wield the monopoly-busting powers granted by the Sherman Antitrust Act and subsequent laws, which led to the break up of Standard Oil in 1911 and AT&T in 1982.
Regulators have been hesitant to scrutinize Facebook’s overwhelming market share, however, because existing antitrust regulations are aimed at keeping prices low for consumers.
Since Facebook is free for users, and instead makes money by mining personal data to sell targeted ads, the traditional impetus for federal intervention has been lacking.
Harvard roommates Zuckerberg (left) and Hughes are seen in 2004 at Harvard’s Eliot House. Facebook was created in February 2004, three months prior to this photograph
Hughes argues that Facebook’s dominance is a real threat to consumers, however, due to the company’s ability to stifle competition and innovation.
He says that Facebook should have never been allowed to purchase competing platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, which combined give the company command over 80 per cent of global social media revenue, according to Hughes’ estimate.
Hughes believes that nothing short of forcing Facebook to split up and sell off Instagram and WhatsApp would be effective at reining the company in.
‘Facebook isn’t afraid of a few more rules,’ he wrote. ‘It’s afraid of an antitrust case and of the kind of accountability that real government oversight would bring.’