Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes urges regulator to break up company’s monopoly
Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who started the social network with Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, called Thursday for federal regulators to break up the company’s monopoly.
In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Mr. Hughes wrote that Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer, has sacrificed “security and civility for clicks” and should be held accountable.
“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be,” Mr. Hughes, 35, wrote in the op-ed titled “It is time to break up Facebook.”
“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” Mr. Hughes wrote. “Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can.”
Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.
Created by Harvard students 15 years ago, Facebook has swelled since to become one of the world’s largest social networking service, boasting roughly 2.3 billion monthly active users.
Along the way, the company acquired services including Instagram, a popular photo-sharing app, and WhatsApp, an encrypted chat platform, effectively ensuring Facebook’s dominance in areas other than social networks, Mr. Hughes noted.
Urging trustbusters to take action, Mr. Hughes said the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice should work together to reverse both the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and ban Facebook for years from expanding further.
“The FTC should have blocked these mergers, but it’s not too late to act,” he wrote.
The FTC initiated an investigation into Facebook last year after the company acknowledged that the personal information of tens of millions of users had been shared without their permission with Cambridge Analytica, a British-based data firm that used that information to target account holders with customized political advertisements.
In an earnings report last week, Facebook said it expects to be fined by the FTC up to $5 billion.
Lawmakers have recommended more than just financial penalties for Facebook, however, with Democrats and Republicans alike recently raising the possibility of trustbusting.
“Facebook as a basic communications platform while also selling ads and also being a surveillance platform, I think those functions should be broken up, but how that gets levied and how that gets approached is what we need to take a fine-tooth comb at,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said last week, Politico reported.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said weeks earlier that reports about social networking allegedly censoring political speech “raises real antitrust issues.”