Though he hasn’t worked for the company in a decade, Chris Hughes helped develop Facebook at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg. However, in a fiery new op-ed for The New York Times, he has an important announcement to make: He feels bad that the site sucks so much, and he thinks “it is time to break up Facebook.” Note this is isn’t a “break up with Facebook” situation, where we all delete our accounts and try to live our lives without the constant social pressure of keeping in touch with people we hate, he literally means that Facebook is too big and too powerful, and we need the government step in and chop it up like the oil and railroad empires of the last century.
In the piece, Hughes lays out his case for reducing Zuckerberg’s “unprecedented and un-American” level of power, explaining that the government already has ways to do this and that the reason more people aren’t on board with this is because we’ve been brainwashed by lawyers and lobbyists and rich people into believing that all businesses are good and all government is bad. That’s obviously not true, since Facebook is a business and Facebook is bad, so this should theoretically be a more palatable idea.
Hughs also goes on to explain that Facebook controls about 80 percent of “the world’s social networking revenue,” with two-thirds of social-networking adults using Facebook itself, another third using Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), and another fifth using WhatsApp (which is also owned by Facebook). Basically, even if you stop using Facebook, there’s a chance you’ll still be stuck using something owned by Facebook because social networking sites are such an important way for modern Americans to communicate. The piece goes on and on like that, expalining why Facebook is bad and why breaking it up into smaller pieces that can’t control the world so easily is a good idea, and it’s worth noting that this idea already has some traction in the federal government—mostly famously with Senator Elizabeth Warren (who also wants to break up Amazon, Apple, and Google).
Since the op-ed came out, Facebook has released a statement to The Verge defending itself against the whole “break up” idea by offering up a solid defense that essentially amounts to “we are a very successful company, why would you want us to be less successful?” In the statement, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication Nick Clegg says, “Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.” Instead, he says accountability “can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet,” which Clegg notes is something Zuckerberg has been meeting with lawmakers about. Funny how the seemingly straightforward idea that involves punishing Facebook won’t work, but the one that’s “painstaking” will, huh?