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Harris favours look at breaking up Facebook

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File Photo: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the LA Promise Fund's Girls Build Leadership summit in Los Angeles, California, U.S., Dec. 15, 2017. Xinhua/REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said on Sunday that US officials should consider breaking up Facebook Inc, the world’s largest social media company, saying it is a utility that has gone unregulated.

Ms Harris, a US senator and one of more than 20 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election, said Facebook has prioritised growth over consumers’ interests, especially on privacy.

“I think we have to seriously take a look at that (breaking up Facebook), yes,” Ms Harris said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. She said very few people can get by in their communities, business or commerce without somehow using Facebook. “So we have to recognise it for what it is. It is essentially a utility that has gone unregulated.”

Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over data sharing practices as well as hate speech and misinformation on its networks.

Some other US lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, have pushed for action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes called last week for the social network to be split into three parts.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users on its social network, rejected Mr Hughes’ call. Spokesman Nick Clegg said Facebook accepted that with success comes accountability, “but you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.”

Early opinion polls show Ms Harris in the top tier of Democrats who have announced presidential campaigns. She and several other Democratic candidates have spent large sums on Facebook ads.

Ms Warren and Amy Klobuchar have proposed plans to increase antitrust scrutiny of the technology sector, with Ms Warren vowing to break up Facebook, Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google if elected.

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