Economy

Facebook co-founder says it is time to break up the company

Facebook co-founder says it is time to break up the company”

"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.

In an op-ed published Thursday in the New York Times, Chris Hughes, who helped form Facebook in a Harvard dorm, joined the growing chorus of lawmakers and advocates demanding the U.S. government rein in Facebook. Despite its myriad scandals - Russian propagandists exploiting the platform to spread misinformation and sway United States elections, the sharing of millions of users' personal data with the political data firm Cambridge Analytica and companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix - Facebook's reach continues to grow. Well, that's obvious from the title of the essay: "It's Time to Break Up Facebook".

The answer and solution lies in more government regulation and subsequent market competition, Hughes says.

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

Hughes also suggests the creation of a new government agency specifically to empower Congress to regulate tech companies and protect user privacy. It also owns WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, each used by more than one billion people.

Hughes said he no longer has any ownership in Facebook or any other social media company. He is reported to have made around $430m from his stake in Facebook. Hughes explains that because Zuckerberg has a 60 percent control of Facebook's voting shares, "Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook's algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered".

Hughes helped to design what Facebook called the "News Feed". "This means that every time Facebook messes up, we repeat an exhausting pattern: first outrage, then disappointment, and finally, resignation".

Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz at Harvard University in 2004.

Zuckerberg not only controls Facebook but also the widely used Instagram and WhatsApp platforms, and Hughes said that Facebook's board works more like an advisory committee than a check on the chief executive's power.

Hughes states that although he believes that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a good person, he has become increasingly anxious over decisions made by Facebook and Zuckerberg in recent years.

"I'm angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks", Hughes wrote.

Zuckerberg, he said, "has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice". 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. Some legislators have called for federal privacy regulation and anti-trust action to break up big tech companies. "But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company".

"This idea may seem un-American -we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech". "No one knows exactly what Facebook's competitors would offer to differentiate themselves".

He added that neither the measures of fine instituted by the FTC nor Facebook's plans to beef up users' data protection will make any difference.

"Today's big tech companies have too much power-over our economy, our society, & our democracy". He left the company in 2007.

The company has been in advanced talks with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle a year-old investigation and said last month it expected to spend between $3 billion and $5 billion on a penalty.

"The government must hold Mark accountable". Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wrote in a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simmons.

Facebook has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation's request for comment about Hughes' calls for a major breakup.



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