Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes speaks at Manny’s in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2019.
Salvador Rodriguez | CNBC
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes said on Friday that he doesn’t recall Mark Zuckerberg ever discussing the Iraq War during the early days of the company, contradicting recent comments from the CEO tying the war to his views on free speech.
“I had never heard that before, and the internet had never heard that before,” Hughes said an event with the Bay Area Chapter of the American Constitution Society. “I don’t remember ever talking about that with Mark.”
Last month, Zuckerberg told an audience at Georgetown University that discussion about the Iraq War at Harvard, where he was a student, and on Facebook in its embryonic days, played a key role in his controversial positions on policing speech. Unlike other social media companies, Facebook has said it won’t ban political advertising nor will it play the role of fact-checker.
In claiming that Facebook was meant to promote dialogue about the Iraq War, which began in 2003, Zuckerberg took a departure from the well-known origin tale that includes the development of Facemash, a predecessor to Facebook where students could compare females at the college and decide who was more attractive.
Hughes said he takes Zuckerberg at his word and admits there’s a chance he may not remember the past correctly, as it’s been 15 years since Facebook was founded from their dorm room. But he indicated that it’s an unlikely tale.
“I was at protests protesting the Iraq War,” Hughes said. “I did not go to any with Mark Zuckerberg.”
Mark Zuckerberg (L) and Chris Hughes (R) of ‘Facebook’ photographed at Eliot House at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. on May 14, 2004.
Rick Friedman | Corbis | Getty Images
Of late, Hughes has been a harsh critic of the company he co-founded. In May, he joined a growing chorus calling for a breakup of the company, publishing a lengthy New York Times opinion piece in which he argued that Facebook now holds more power over speech than a private entity should.
“The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech,” Hughes wrote. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”
Hughes has reportedly met with officials from the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department as well as state attorneys general. They’ve all opened antitrust investigations into the social media company.
At Friday’s event, Hughes also called for the creation of a new federal government agency to oversee the tech industry, comparing it to existing bodies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Aviation Administration and the Food and Drug Administration. This group could be charged with regulating issues like online privacy, data protection and data interoperability.
“It has to come with a congressional mandate, it has to be well funded, it has to have good leadership and it has to really be empowered to make actual decisions as the technology landscape continues to evolve,” Hughes said.
Regarding Libra, the digital currency project started by Facebook, Hughes said the effort has started an important discussion but he doesn’t think private companies should control global currency.
“I do not want Facebook and Visa and Mastercard from a headquarters in Geneva to determine monetary policy in the U.S., or Turkey, or India or anywhere else,” he said. “It seems to be dead on arrival.”