Friday, 10 May 2019 09:39

Facebook co-founder wants Zuckerberg held to account, company split up Featured

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Facebook co-founder wants Zuckerberg held to account, company split up Pixabay

The US Government must hold Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg accountable for all the problems that the social media site has visited upon its users, Chris Hughes, a co-founder of the company, says in an op-ed, in which he also called for the company to be broken up.

Zuckerberg should have been called to account after his testimony to the US Congress last year following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Chris Hughes wrote in The New York Times, adding that instead of that happening, the politicians who questioned the Facebook chief were criticised as being too old and out of touch.

Facebook is being investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission and the company is expected a fine up to US$5 billion for invasions of privacy. The company came in for severe criticism in March when a white supremacist terrorist streamed footage on the platform of his murderous attack on Muslims in Christchurch.

"The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines," Hughes wrote.

"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."

Hughes said Facebook's dominance was not an accident and the company had set this out as an objective when it was launched.

He called for splitting up the company so that Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp were not in one silo.

"The FTC’s biggest mistake was to allow Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2012, the newer platforms were nipping at Facebook’s heels because they had been built for the smartphone, where Facebook was still struggling to gain traction. Mark responded by buying them, and the FTC approved," Hughes said.

The biggest problem with Facebook was Zuckerberg's ability to monitor, organise and even censor what more than two billion people posted as content.

Hughes said in addition to breaking up Facebook, the government should create a new agency to regulate technology companies. "The Europeans have made headway on privacy with the General Data Protection Regulation, a law that guarantees users a minimal level of protection," he pointed out.

This agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media, Hughes suggested.

"This idea may seem un-American – we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices.

"We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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