In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, Chris Hughes, co-founder of social media giant, Facebook, says the business has grown too big and should be broken up.
In addition, Hughes suggested creating a new regulatory agency for technology and privacy protection. The Federal Trade Commission is expected to fine Facebook as much as $5 billion as part of a settlement over privacy violations stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year.
Zuckerberg controls most of Facebook’s voting shares, and as a result the board of directors works “more like an advisory committee,” Hughes said, which gives Zuckerberg alone the power to decide the algorithms behind Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. He’s the wizard behind the curtain, and has the ability to decide what content we do and do not see, who is allowed to use the site and who is not.
Zuckerberg has continually apologized for privacy issues on Facebook, but doesn’t really have to fix the problems. Facebook is the behemoth of social media, with 2 million subscribers worldwide. Basically the only show in town, Facebook doesn’t really need to fix its problems. Unless it’s forced to do so by the FCC.
Hughes and other early Facebook founders didn’t foresee how the News Feed algorithm “could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders,” he wrote. But now he said he feels “a sense of anger and responsibility.”
Now, the most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Zuckerberg’s “unilateral control over speech,” Hughes said. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”
Recently a number of conservative members were banned due to the “hate speech” algorithm, a move which that called a violation of free speech. Congress has yet to act on whether or not social media platforms are private businesses or public forums, which would determine whether or not free speech is protected.
In March, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, called for breaking up Facebook, among other large corporations, saying they’re so large they crowd out competition. Her plan is supported by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a fellow Democratic presidential candidate.
Warren’s proposal calls for legislation that would designate the companies as “platform utilities,” and proposed that some of the mergers, including Facebook’s purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram, be unwound, a move Hughes agreed with.
“The company’s strategy was to beat every competitor in plain view,” Hughes wrote, “and regulators and the government tacitly — and at times explicitly — approved.”