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 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.