WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc co-founder and former Mark Zuckerberg roommate Chris Hughes called for the break up of the world’s largest social media network in an opinion piece in the New York Times on Thursday.
FILE PHOTO: Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, speaks at the Charles Schwab IMPACT 2010 conference in Boston, Massachusetts October 28, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Hughes joins U.S. lawmakers who have also urged anti-trust action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation. Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over its data sharing practices and hate speech and misinformation on its networks.
“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,” Hughes wrote in the New York Times piece.
Facebook’s social network has more than 2 billion users across the world. It also owns WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, each used by more than 1 billion people. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, in March vowed to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google if elected U.S. president to promote competition in the tech sector.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power—over our economy, our society, & our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private info for profit, hurt small businesses & stifled innovation. It’s time to #BreakUpBigTech,” Warren said on Twitter on Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called for the creation of “more, and fairer” social media companies in response to discrimination he alleges he has faced as a Republican from Twitter Inc.
Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz. He quit Facebook in 2007 and later said in a LinkedIn post that he made half a billion dollars for his three years of work.
“It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility,” said Hughes, who later was an online strategist for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said in a statement that he agreed that in retrospect that U.S. regulators “should not have approved Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram & WhatsApp in 2012.”
He said that “the way forward is to heavily scrutinize future mergers and to ensure no company has anti-competitive platform privileges.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In one of a number of security and privacy scandals to hit the company, Facebook is accused of inappropriately sharing information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
The company has been in advanced talks with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle a year-old investigation and said last month it expected to spend between $3 billion and $5 billion on a penalty.
On Monday, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators criticized reported plans for the settlement, calling on the FTC to impose harsher penalties and more restrictions on Facebook’s business practices.
Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” Hughes said.
“And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.”
Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Meredith Mazzilli