Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

Facebook co-founder calls for company to break up over 'unprecedented' power

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Getty Images Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Getty Images
Russell Knight | 10 May, 2019, 09:30

Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard with the company's Chief Executive Officer Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz.

Saying he still believed that Zuckerberg was a "good, kind person", Hughes argued that the billionaire's incessant "focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks", going on to cite numerous privacy scandals, data leaks, and the alleged manipulation of speech engaged in by the company.

"I feel a sense of anger and responsibility", he wrote, lamenting the company's "slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news".

Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacts as he speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018.

Facebook has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation's request for comment about Hughes' calls for a major breakup. And on the heels of Zuckerberg announcing a new plan to knit Facebook's myriad services including Instagram together into a more cohesive whole, Hughes penned an op-ed in the New York Times that makes a forceful plea: It's time to break this company up, Hughes argues.

"The FTC's biggest mistake was to allow Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp", Hughes writes. He says that, while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should have blocked those big-ticket mergers in the first place, "it's not too late to act". "We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use", Hughes wrote.

Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over data sharing practices as well as hate speech and misinformation on its networks. "That's exactly the point".

Hughes also called on the USA government to break up Facebook's business model to democratise its monopolistic power.

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Hughes writes that it is Zuckerberg's "very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic". But critics say the amount is but a slap on the wrist for a company that had $55.8 billion in revenue a year ago.

Hughes' call to split Facebook from WhatsApp and Instagram followed a March pledge by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2020 election, to break up big tech companies.

In a statement, Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of Global Affairs and Communication, said "Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability".

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, told CNBC he thinks Facebook should be broken up and that the Justice Department's antitrust division needs to begin an investigation. After Mark's congressional testimony past year, there should have been calls for him to truly reckon with his mistakes. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for federal privacy rules and new laws to break up big tech companies.

"That's why we devote significant time, energy and resources to these issues", said the spokesperson.

MA 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. Parker, the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, spoke at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he discussed social media. He later said in a LinkedIn post that he earned $500 million for his three years of work.

More than 2 billion people worldwide now use Facebook.

Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the news came out about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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