Time to break the Facebook monopoly, says its co-founder

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Getty Images

"The most problematic aspect of Facebook's power is Mark's unilateral control over speech", Hughes wrote in a New York Times editorial.

Mr Hughes also called for a new federal agency to regulate tech companies whose "first mandate is to protect privacy".

In a nation that traditionally reins in monopolies regardless of the intention of those firms, "Mark's power is unprecedented and un-American", said Hughes.

Hughes finishes on a more philosophical note, focusing less on Facebook's business practices and more on how the company has completely changed social communication - for the worse, in his view. Facebook's algorithms, and those of its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp, determine what its millions of users see online, which can be used to inhibit its rivals and bolster fringe political candidates.

"I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators", wrote Zuckerberg.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability", he wrote in a statement published by Hadas Gold of CNN. Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet.

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In the Times Thursday, Hughes invoked the Sherman Antitrust Act and called for the federal government to rediscover "energetic antitrust enforcement". Tessa Lyons, who leads a team at Facebook that's tackling the spread of misinformation around the world, told FRONTLINE in the documentary.

Antitrust law makes such a proposal tough to execute because the government would have to take the company to court and win. He calls for bigger regulatory moves-including breaking up the company. While Hughes hasn't worked at the company for a decade, the former Facebook spokesperson might now be the strongest voice to make the case.

Hughes roomed with Zuckerberg at Harvard and left Facebook in 2007 to campaign for Barack Obama. The founders of Instagram and WhatsApp have left, as has the executive who took over WhatsApp a year ago.

He said that "the way forward is to heavily scrutinize future mergers and to ensure no company has anti-competitive platform privileges".

He later cited "artistic differences" with Zuckerberg as his reason for leaving, without elaborating.

The entrepreneur says that Facebook is now a "powerful monopoly" that should be forced to reverse its acquisitions of Instagram and Whatsapp.

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The FTC is also weighing whether to hold Zuckerberg and Facebook accountable for the string of privacy lapses, the Washington Post reported.

"Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can".

"Facebook so dominates social networking, it faces no market-based accountability", said Hughes.

The group said Thursday it filed a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of a source that preferred to remain anonymous. In a statement, Facebook said they "hope to reach an appropriate and fair resolution". The company's admission past year that a British data firm, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly accessed the personal information of up to 87 million users, generated calls for regulation of the industry.

Hughes said the biggest winners would be American Facebook users.

Hughes said when he and Zuckerberg started the company, they had no idea of the influence it could possibly have, but after these last two years of one scandal after another and the revelation, to some, that privacy has been overlooked or abused, it's time to act.

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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.

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