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Facebook Co-founder Calls for New Laws Limiting Big Tech


Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, speaks at a conference in 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Facebook Co-founder Calls for New Laws Limiting Big Tech
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Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has called for the breakup of Facebook, the world’s largest social media company.

Hughes says the United States has laws to control monopolies - businesses that control too much of an industry. He wants the U.S. government to use those laws to help protect people from technology and social media companies.

His comments appeared Thursday in an opinion piece in The New York Times.

Facebook Inc. quickly rejected his call.

Hughes once shared a room in college with Mark Zuckerberg, who later became Facebook’s chief executive officer.

"We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark's power is unprecedented and un-American," Hughes wrote.

Is Facebook too big?

More than 2 billion people worldwide currently use Facebook. The company also owns WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. Each service has more than 1 billion users.

Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz at Harvard University in 2004. He left the company in 2007. He later said in a LinkedIn post that he earned $500 million 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," he wrote.

Hughes helped Barack Obama with his presidential election campaign's online strategy during the 2008 political campaign.

Privacy and security were not protected by Facebook

Over the past two years, several security and privacy scandals have hit Facebook. Investigators found that the company, working with a now-closed consulting business, called Cambridge Analytica, shared information about 87 million users. In 2016, the election campaign of then presidential candidate Donald Trump used that information to target its advertising to Facebook users.

Hughes helped to design what Facebook called the "News Feed." He said that his team should have thought more carefully about how that might be used.

"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."

Friends and coworkers

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

"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.

He also said he worries that the people around Zuckerberg always agree with him and never question his ideas. Zuckerberg cannot be dismissed, so he has total control of the company.

Encouraging competition

Hughes is not alone in asking for breakup of Facebook. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for federal privacy rules and new laws to break up big tech companies.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said on Thursday he thinks Facebook needs to be broken up. He also called for the Justice Department’s antitrust division to launch an investigation.

In March, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google, if elected president. She thinks that action would help to support competition in the tech field.

Facebook rejected Hughes’ call for WhatsApp and Instagram to be made into separate businesses. The social media company said that attention should be directed instead on creating rules for the internet.

“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company," a spokesperson said in the statement.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Supantha Mukherjee reported on this story for the Reuters news agency. Jill Robbins adapted it for VOA Learning English, along with stories from the New York Times . George Grow was the editor.

Do you use Facebook? What do you think about how the information you get from it? Write to us in the Comments Section.

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Words in This Story

rein (in) - v. to limit or control

well-intentioned - v. having or showing a desire to do something good but often producing bad results

unprecedented - adj. not done or experienced before

strategy – n. a plan of action or method

scandal - n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

disappoint – v. to fail to meet the expectation of someone or something

focus - n. a main purpose or interest​

algorithm - n. a set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process

click - n. the action of selecting a link on a web page

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