One of the co-founders of Facebook called on Thursday for the social media behemoth to be broken up, warning that the company’s head, Mark Zuckerberg, had become far too powerful.
“It’s time to break up Facebook,” said Chris Hughes, who along with Zuckerberg founded the online network in their dorm room while both were students at Harvard University in 2004.
In an editorial published in The New York Times, Hughes said that Zuckerberg’s “focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” and warned that his global influence had become “staggering.”
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.
“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability,” said vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg.
“But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.”
Clegg, a British former deputy prime minister, reasoned that carefully crafted regulation of the internet is the way to hold technology companies accountable, and noted that Zuckerberg has been advocating for just that.
Facebook and its family of services have many competitors, and can find corporate efficiencies when it comes to data centers, talent and other resources that can work on its various offerings, Clegg said.
Hughes, who quit Facebook more than a decade ago, was pictured in the newspaper together with Zuckerberg when both were fresh-faced students launching Facebook as a campus networking tool.
He accused Facebook of acquiring or copying all of its competitors to achieve dominance in the social media field, meaning that investors were reluctant to back any rivals because they know they cannot compete for long.
Zuckerberg “has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice,” wrote Hughes, who is now a member of the Economic Security Project, which is pushing for a universal basic income in the United States.
After buying up its main competitors Instagram, where people can publish photos, and WhatsApp, a secure messaging service, Facebook now has 2.7 billion monthly users across its platforms and made a first quarter profit of $2.43 billion this year.
– ‘Break up Facebook’s monopoly’ –
“The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech. There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people,” said Hughes.
The company has been rocked by a series of scandals recently, including allowing its users’ data to be harvested by research companies and its slow response to Russia using Facebook as a means to spread disinformation during the 2016 US election campaign.
The company is reportedly expecting to face a fine of $5 billion. It has also been investing heavily in staff and artificial intelligence to fight misinformation and other abuses at its platform.
“The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people,” Hughes said, urging the government to break away Instagram and WhatsApp and prevent new acquisitions for several years.
“Even after a breakup, Facebook would be a hugely profitable business with billions to invest in new technologies — and a more competitive market would only encourage those investments,” he said.
Hughes said the break-up, under existing anti-trust laws, would allow better privacy protections for social media users and would cost US authorities almost nothing.
Hughes said that he remained friends with Zuckerberg, noting that “he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.”
The Republicans’ impeachment lawyer made 2 huge mistakes in questioning Gordon Sondland
Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered complex and convoluted impeachment testimony on Wednesday about his involvement in President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. He gave detailed evidence recounting the president and the rest of the administration’s involvement in his effort to get Ukraine to launch investigations of Trump’s political opponents — including by leveraging a potential White House meeting and a hold on military aid.
But he also, to the Republicans’ delight, left some ambiguity about how much Trump had been involved in the effort to leverage the aid, saying that he had “presumed” Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations would release the hold. And he noted that, in one phone call the president — as the scheme was slowly being uncovered — Trump angrily denied there was a quid pro quo.
Rick Santorum smacked down for claiming Sondland testimony helped Trump
On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tried to argue that the testimony of E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland actually helped President Donald Trump — and was promptly challenged.
"I think the Democrats had a good morning. I don't think they had a good afternoon," said Santorum. "I think what when the Republicans actually started questioning Sondland about the details, I think it fell apart a little bit."
"How so?" asked Chris Cuomo.
"He said the president never said any of these things to him," said Santorum. "In fact, what the president said, he quoted what the president said is, no, there's no quid pro quo. What he says is, well, I'm surmising, this is what I'm just sort of gathering. Did anything come from the president? No, it came from Rudy Giuliani."
‘The cost of acquitting Donald Trump just went up’ for the Republicans: MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid
MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid explained during the post-hearing wrap-up that things aren't looking good for Republican senators up for reelection in 2020.
In the wake of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony, things are getting more difficult for Republicans faced with a vote on impeachment.
"Even if [the numbers] don't move, the problem is going to be a lot of these people have to run for re-election, letting the president off the hook when it's pretty clear what happened," Reid said. "This is pretty simple, and if I'm Cory Gardener (R-CO), I'm not feeling great."
Brian Williams noted that Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is one of the many Republicans "who's leaving town on a fast horse." If anyone could be pealed off by Democrats, Williams thinks it is Hurd.