Facebook fights back after co-founder says Zuckerberg is too powerful

Facebook fights back: Social media giant says breaking up a ‘successful company’ isn’t the right way to hold it accountable after their co-founder claimed Zuckerberg’s power is ‘unprecedented and un-American’

  • Facebook said accountability could only be achieved through ‘new rules for internet’, claiming ‘that’s exactly what Mark  Zuckerberg has called for’ 
  • Chris Hughes spoke out in a searing New York Times op-ed on Thursday
  • Lamented Zuckerberg’s ‘unilateral control over speech’ and threat of censorship
  • Demanded federal regulators break up Facebook into smaller companies
  • Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp which Hughes says should be sold 

Facebook is fighting back after co-founder Chris Hughes called for federal regulators to break up the company. 

Hughes made headlines on Thursday as he claimed that CEO Mark Zuckerberg was too powerful and that the company had become an effective monopoly. 

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, swiftly released a statement denouncing Hughes’ 6,000-word New York Times op-ed. 

‘Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company,’ Clegg, who is also a former British Deputy Prime Minister, said in a statement to DailyMail.com.   

‘Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet,’ he added. 

Facebook is fighting back after co-founder Chris Hughes called for federal regulators to break up the company 

Hughes (left) is seen with Zuckerberg in Palo Alto in the early days of Facebook. The pair were college roommates at Harvard and collaborated on the creation of Facebook

‘That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work.’ 

Hughes, who was Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, said the CEO’s power was ‘unprecedented and un-American’. 

‘It is time to break up Facebook,’ he declared in the searing op-ed.  

Hughes, 35, helped build Facebook from the beginning, and was a key creator in products like the social network’s News Feed. He left the company in 2007 to join Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, and says he liquidated his Facebook stock in 2012.

Now, Hughes says he has watched with horror as the company he helped create has grown into a behemoth through the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, threatening to crush free speech and stifle competitive innovation.

Zuckerberg testified before Congress last year. Hughes says that federal regulators need to intervene immediately and force Facebook to break up into separate companies

According to Hughes, the most dire threat at Facebook is Zuckerberg’s ‘unilateral control over speech.’ 

‘There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people,’ he continued. 

‘Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,’ Hughes wrote. 

Hughes said that Zuckerberg has virtually unlimited control over algorithms that determine what each of billions of Facebook users sees in their News Feed, what privacy settings they can use, and even which messages they receive on the platform.

‘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,’ Hughes wrote. 

Zuckerberg speaks at the F8 conference last month. Hughes writes that the most dire threat at Facebook is Zuckerberg’s ‘unilateral control over speech’

In addition to publishing the op-ed, Hughes sat for a television interview that will air on NBC Nightly News on Thursday. 

‘The reason I am speaking out is because I think Facebook has become too big, too powerful,’ he explained in a preview clip of the interview.

Hughes added of Zuckerberg: ‘He is extremely powerful because he has no boss, because there has been no regulatory agency from the federal government.’

In his op-ed, Hughes calls on the federal government to wield the monopoly-busting powers granted by the Sherman Antitrust Act and subsequent laws, which led to the break up of Standard Oil in 1911 and AT&T in 1982.

Regulators have been hesitant to scrutinize Facebook’s overwhelming market share, however, because existing antitrust regulations are aimed at keeping prices low for consumers.

Since Facebook is free for users, and instead makes money by mining personal data to sell targeted ads, the traditional impetus for federal intervention has been lacking.

Harvard roommates Zuckerberg (left) and Hughes are seen in 2004 at Harvard’s Eliot House. Facebook was created in February 2004, three months prior to this photograph


Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg set out in March 2019 how he believes the social network and the internet should be regulated.

The firm’s founder and chief executive said there is a need for governments and regulators to have ‘a more active role’.

Mr Zuckerberg said he believes new regulation is needed in four areas – harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

In an op-ed published online in the Washington Post and on his own Facebook page, Mr Zuckerberg said: ‘Every day we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks.

‘These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgements alone.

‘I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. 

‘By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms.’

‘From what I’ve learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.’

Mr Zuckerberg said legislation is important for ‘protecting elections’ and said it should be ‘updated’, adding that Facebook has already made ‘significant changes around political ads’.

Hughes argues that Facebook’s dominance is a real threat to consumers, however, due to the company’s ability to stifle competition and innovation.

He says that Facebook should have never been allowed to purchase competing platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, which combined give the company command over 80 percent of global social media revenue, according to Hughes’ estimate. 

Hughes believes that nothing short of forcing Facebook to split up and sell off Instagram and WhatsApp would be effective at reining the company in. 

‘Facebook isn’t afraid of a few more rules,’ he wrote. ‘It’s afraid of an antitrust case and of the kind of accountability that real government oversight would bring.’ 

Others join call to break up Facebook  

Hughes joins US 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 misinformation spread on its networks.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, in March vowed to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google if elected 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.

President Donald Trump has also 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.

Rep Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said in a statement that he agreed that in retrospect US 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’. 

Latest in a line of scandals 

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 US Federal Trade Commission to settle a year-old investigation and said last month it expected to spend between $3billion and $5billion on a penalty.

On Monday, Republican and Democratic senators criticized reported plans for the settlement, calling on the FTC to impose harsher penalties and more restrictions on Facebook’s business practices.

Zuckerberg touts new privacy initiatives last month following a string of embarassments

Hughes said he last met with Zuckerberg in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.

‘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 said.

‘And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.’

Hughes co-founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard with the company’s 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.


December 2018: Facebook comes under fire after a bombshell report discovered the firm allowed over 150 companies, including Netflix, Spotify and Bing, to access unprecedented amounts of user data, such as private messages.

Some of these ‘partners’ had the ability to read, write, and delete Facebook users’ private messages and to see all participants on a thread. 

It also allowed Microsoft’s search engine, known as Bing, to see the name of all Facebook users’ friends without their consent.

Amazon was allowed to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and Yahoo could view streams of friends’ posts.

As of last year, Sony, Microsoft, and Amazon could all obtain users’ email addresses through their friends.

September 2018: Facebook disclosed that it had been hit by its worst ever data breach, affecting 50 million users – including those of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Attackers exploited the site’s ‘View As’ feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other users.  

Facebook says it has found no evidence ‘so far’ that hackers broke into third-party apps after a data breach exposed 50 million users (stock image)  

The unknown attackers took advantage of a feature in the code called ‘Access Tokens,’ to take over people’s accounts, potentially giving hackers access to private messages, photos and posts – although Facebook said there was no evidence that had been done. 

The hackers also tried to harvest people’s private information, including name, sex and hometown, from Facebook’s systems.

Facebook said it doesn’t yet know if information from the affected accounts has been misused or accessed, and is working with the FBI to conduct further investigations.

However, Mark Zuckerberg assured users that passwords and credit card information was not accessed.

As a result of the breach, the firm logged roughly 90 million people out of their accounts earlier today as a security measure.

March 2018: Facebook made headlines earlier this year after the data of 87 million users was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy.

The disclosure has prompted government inquiries into the company’s privacy practices across the world, and fueled a ‘#deleteFacebook’ movement among consumers.

Communications firm Cambridge Analytica had offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.

‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.

The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix (pictured), after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump

This meant the company was able to mine the information of 87 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.

This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.

It has also suffered several previous issues.

In 2013, Facebook disclosed a software flaw that exposed 6 million users’ phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorized viewers for a year, while a technical glitch in 2008 revealed confidential birth-dates on 80 million Facebook users’ profiles.  

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