Chris Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg in 2005
Chris Hughes (left) and Mark Zuckerberg in their Palo Alto offices in September 2005 – when Facebook claimed 3.75 million members. (John Green/San Mateo County Times via Getty Images)

Chris Hughes, one of Facebook's original founders, publicly called for his co-creation to be broken up in a scathing New York Times op-ed on Thursday.

Hughes, who cofounded the social media giant with Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, called Zuckerberg's power "unprecedented and un-American," and said Facebook has turned into a dangerous monopoly. Hughes writes that he realised the extent of the damage in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018.

America, Hughes argues, has always been opposed to monopolies but has forgotten about the danger autocracy poses to democracy. Zuckerberg's power, he says, resembles that of oil or transportation barons of the 19th Century, and should be reigned in.

"Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power," Hughes wrote. "The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook's monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people."

Hughes' call for government intervention has not fallen on deaf ears. As of Thursday afternoon, American Senator Elizabeth Warren was among the US political officials publicly supporting Hughes' call to break up Facebook.

"Chris Hughes is right. Today's big tech companies have too much power-over our economy, our society, & our democracy," Warren tweeted Thursday morning. "They've bulldozed competition, used our private info for profit, hurt small businesses & stifled innovation. It's time to #BreakUpBigTech."

'An exhausting pattern'

Although Hughes said he believes Zuckerberg might have the best intentions, he expressed concern about the tidal wave of scandals the company and its CEO have found themselves in since 2016.

"Every time Facebook messes up, we repeat an exhausting pattern: first outrage, then disappointment and, finally, resignation," he said.

Breaking them up would increase competition, and put more pressure on the company to do better in the future, in an outcome that he argues would be better for America.

"The biggest winners would be the American people. Imagine a competitive market in which they could choose among one network that offered higher privacy standards, another that cost a fee to join but had little advertising, and another that would allow users to customize and tweak their feeds as they saw fit."

Amid the uproar, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communication Nick Clegg issued a statement to CNN reiterating Zuckerberg's commitment to working with federal officials on oversight regulation.

"Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company," Clegg wrote. "Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting government leaders this week to further that work."

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