In a lengthy New York Times, op-ed, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes calls for the social media giant to be broken up, saying it has become too powerful and poses a “threat” to democracy. Hughes calls for Facebook to be separated into multiple companies, and separated from Instagram and WhatsApp, a move he says would be difficult because the company is working quickly to integrate them. Hughes says the move would make room for competitors who just can’t compete now.
Hughes calls for a new government agency to regulate tech companies and protect privacy which would also create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media.
Writes Hughes: “This idea may seem un-American — we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices. We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.”
With regard to co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Hughes suggests that too much control is in the hands of one person:
“Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it. Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. The government must hold Mark accountable.”
Read the full op-ed here.