Et tu, roommate?
Chris Hughes, who helped launch Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room 15 years ago, claims that the 34-year-old billionaire CEO has power that is “unprecedented and un-American” and that the social network should be “separated into multiple companies.”
In a blistering op-ed piece published in the New York Times on Thursday, Hughes, who left Facebook a decade ago, says that Zuckerberg’s influence is “staggering” and has grown “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government.”
“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 wrote.
Hughes says Facebook’s board is more of “an advisory committee than an overseer” due to Zuckerberg’s 60 percent voting share in the company, which gives him almost complete control of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which billions of people use daily.
“I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them,” Hughes warned.
Citing America’s tradition of breaking up monopolies like Standard Oil and AT&T, Hughes says the government must bring Zuckerberg to heel and “check the domination of Facebook.”
“The American government needs to do two things,” Hughes wrote, “break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”
The Federal Trade Commission, which reportedly is preparing to slap Facebook with a fine as high as $5 billion for its privacy lapses, also should undo the company’s multibillion-dollar acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and block the company from future acquisitions for several years, Hughes wrote.
Hughes also calls for a new government agency designed specifically to regulate tech companies, with a mandate to protect consumer privacy — an area where Facebook has been battered by scandal in the past year.
“If we do not take action, Facebook’s monopoly will become even more entrenched,” Hughes warns. “With much of the world’s personal communications in hand, it can mine that data for patterns and trends, giving it an advantage over competitors for decades to come.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shares of the social network were down 1.2 percent Thursday morning, at $187.33.
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