Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes made big news with an op-ed for the New York Times last week, in which he argued his former corporate home should be broken up by the government. So much so that Facebook’s current VP for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, published an editorial response at the NYT on Saturday.
On Sunday, Hughes spoke with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, and doubled down on his position, painting a grim picture of a Thanos-like super villain in the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg: omnipotent, unaccountable, and thinks he knows what’s best for everyone else.
That may not be exactly how he would put it, but it’s in the air in the interview, as you can see in the video below.
There is a lot in the interview, much of it covered in the op-ed, but the striking part was when Zakaria asked specifically about Zuckerberg.
“The — your biggest concern, you say in the piece is the degree to which Mark Zuckerberg has almost total control over what information we all read about, access,” said Zakaria. That is a sentiment echoed by many on the right, particularly some members of the GOP after both congressional testimony, and the President talking recently about social media bans and censorship. Hughes agreed with Zakaria’s phrasing, that Zuckerberg has too much control over what people read and see in the world.
“You know the way that Facebook is structured as a company — Mark’s the CEO, there is a board but because he owns 60 percent of the voting shares he’s not accountable really to that board,” said Hughes. “it works more like a board of advisers than anything else.”
So he agreed Zuckerberg has almost “total control” and that he is “not accountable” for it.
He added that “if the FTC broke up the company or if there were meaningful privacy regulation,” it could potentially “bring accountability.”
“But the world that we’re in right now is one where I do think Mark Zuckerberg has too much power,” he said. Near-unilateral power.”
It’s particularly notable that Hughes isn’t focusing exclusively on privacy, but the control over the public square. The former comes up more often in tech news, while the latter more often comes up from critics on the right. Watch below.
Democrat 2020 hopefuls have been weighing in over the weekend, too. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has previously inveighed against the power of Facebook, applauded Hughes for his op-ed. On Sunday morning, Sen. Kamala Harris also said breaking up the company is something that “we have to seriously take a look at.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz this year retweeted Warren for the first time when the liberal Democrat was lamenting Facebook’s power, and without specifically calling for action, certainly agreed with Hughes’ premise that the company is controlling speech.
Sen. Josh Hawley has been more specific, and in March said antitrust laws need to be updated specifically to reflect the new tech world and social media landscape.
“Our antitrust laws and our antitrust doctrine in the courts are not really developed to talk about this,” Hawely told The Verge. “So we’ll have that discussion in the courts.”
Last month, Zuckerberg himself called for increased government regulation.