It’s time to break up Facebook, says company co-founder Chris Hughes

9 May 2019343 Views

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Facebook profile of Mark Zuckerberg. Image: grinvalds/Depositphotos

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Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has said the company poses a threat to democracy.

Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, has called for the company to be broken up, saying it is a threat to democracy and citing concern over the “unilateral control” Mark Zuckerberg wields over speech.

In a searing New York Times opinion piece published today (9 May), Hughes spoke plainly about his view that Zuckerberg’s “staggering” influence goes “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government” and is therefore deeply worrying.

Hughes said: “We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American. It is time to break up Facebook.”

Part of what contributes to Zuckerberg’s influence, Hughes continued, is the fact that he controls 60pc of all voting shares in Facebook, resulting in him having “unchecked power”.

Hughes detailed Facebook’s strategy for achieving its current dominance, claiming that it would either acquire or simply copy any company that posed a threat to its burgeoning monopoly. “Would-be competitors can’t raise the money to take on Facebook. Investors realise that if a company gets traction, Facebook will copy its innovations, shut it down or acquire it for a relatively modest sum.”

Siliconrepublic.com has reached out to Facebook for comment but has not received a response at time of publication.

Hughes is the latest in a series of high-profile tech executives and commentators calling for stricter controls to be placed upon the company. Tim Wu – who famously coined the phrase ‘net neutrality’ – has, like Hughes, called for aggressive antitrust enforcement in light of the massive growth of Facebook and other so-called ‘Big Tech’ companies such as Amazon and Google.

In March 2019, US senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed a regulatory plan to break up towering tech giants and it has since become a core element of her campaign. It would undo some tech mergers and prohibit platforms from both offering a commerce marketplace and participating in said marketplace.

Hughes isn’t even the first company alumnus to make such a suggestion. Antonio García Martínez, who previously worked on Facebook’s early monetisation team, has also called for it to be broken up, saying in an op-ed for Wired that it would be “good for the market as well as our mental health”.

While Zuckerberg previously responded to such calls in an op-ed in which he expressed agreement and called for increased regulation, Hughes has argued that this amounts to him hoping for “friendly oversight” from regulators, though denies that it was done in “bad faith”.

Facebook profile of Mark Zuckerberg. Image: grinvalds/Depositphotos

Eva Short is a Journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com