By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
May 9, 2019
He was there as the first glimmer of Facebook happened, and now the roommate and co-founder of the social media titan says it is time for Facebook to be broken up.
Chris Hughes wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that calls for the breakup of what we have all come to rely on, and complain about, in our ever-present quest to connect with true friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers, not face to face, but from the comfort and anonymity found behind a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Hughes said Zuckerberg has too much control over billions of people and how they interact online. Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
The shares owned by Zuckerberg and the rest of the controlling group are considered Class B shares and account for 10 votes per share. The remaining shares are Class A, which are publicly traded and account for one vote per share, CNBC said.
"Technology is a major part of our lives, and companies such as Facebook have immense responsibilities. Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyber attacks. These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn't ask companies to make these judgements alone," Zuckerberg wrote in March for a opinion piece published in The Washington Post.
And everything in those three programs is controlled by Zuckerberg, Hughes said. According to Hughes, Zuckerberg decides what users see by approving algorithms, sets privacy settings and decides what is violent and incendiary speech and how it is different from offensive language.
If a competitor needs to go, Hughes says Zuckerberg either acquires, blocks or copies it.
But that's not all Zuckerberg's doing. Hughes finds fault not only in the Facebook CEO, but also in himself during the early days.
"Mark is a good, kind person," Hughes said. "But I'm angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I'm disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I'm worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them."
Hughes is now demanding the government step in and hold Zuckerberg accountable for the influence he and the platform have.
Hughes says, “It’s time to break up Facebook.”
He is citing the acts and laws already on the books of the country -- the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and moves that promote competition and try to avoid monopolies. He also says the government regulates other industries, such as airlines and pharmaceuticals.
Zuckerberg has said he and all social media have too much power, and he asked for government regulation two months ago in The Washington Post. He called for regulations in what he called "harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability."
The call to break up the Facebook conglomerate has been growing after investigations have led to the discovery of leaks of personal data through the data firm Cambridge Analytica and that Facebook was used by propaganda experts in Russia to influence election outcomes in the U.S., CNN reported.
Zuckerberg originally denied that information gleaned from Facebook could have been used by operatives, CNN reported. But, eventually, company's chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, said that data from 87 million people, most of them from the U.S., had been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.