Facebook cofounder talking to the US government about how to break up Facebook

Business Insider

Chris Hughes, the Facebook cofounder turned outspoken critic of the social network, is in conversations with US regulators about breaking up the tech company.

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Hughes, who left Facebook in 2007, has met with the Federal Trade Commission, US Department of Justice, and unspecified state attorneys general over the past few weeks to discuss antitrust action alongside two other prominent antitrust proponents, Tim Wu and Scott Hemphill.

The potential antitrust approach laid out by Hughes centers on the concept of "serial defensive acquisitions," according to slides of a presentation viewed by The New York Times, with the argument being that Facebook's purchases of rival companies allowed it to stamp out competitive threats, in turn allowing it to maintain a dominant position in the advertising industry and charge advertisers more.

The revelation comes a day after Facebook revealed in its second-quarter 2019 earnings that the FTC opened an antitrust investigation into it in June, which, according to Bloomberg, is examining its core social-networking business.

A spokesperson for Hughes declined to comment to Business Insider. The FTC, the Department of Justice, Wu, and Hemphill did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, Hughes went public with calls for Facebook to be broken up, arguing that it had grown too large and powerful. In an op-ed for The New York Times in May, Hughes said Facebook has become a "leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice," and that its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram should be undone.

He joined a growing chorus of critics calling for antitrust action against Facebook, among them Wu and Hemphill, as well as politicians like Elizabeth Warren. Hemphill told The New York Times that Hughes "has been an important contributor to thinking about these issues."

Business Insider

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