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.
In a 5,700-word New York Times op-ed piece published Thursday, Hughes argued that Zuckerberg holds “unchecked power” that is “unprecedented and un-American.”
“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” wrote Hughes, who is now co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at liberal think tank the Roosevelt Institute.
“And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them,” he wrote.
In the op-ed, Hughes called for the FTC, together with the Department of Justice, to force Facebook to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp into separate companies, and also to bar Facebook from making acquisitions for several years.
“Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can,” Hughes wrote.
Facebook is anticipating an FTC fine of up to $5 billion to settle allegations of the company’s violations of privacy regulations. But that “slap on the wrist” is not enough to check Facebook’s dangerous and anticompetitive control over communication in the digital age, according to Hughes.
“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,” Hughes wrote.
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 (FB), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOG) 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.
According to Hughes, he sold his Facebook shares in 2012 and does not invest directly in any social-media companies.
Facebook shares (FB) were down about 1% near midday Thursday at $187.65.