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Congressman: The world would be better off if Facebook didn’t buy Instagram

Published Jan 25th, 2019 10:05PM EST
Facebook Instagram WhatsApp merging chat
Image: LODI Franck/SIPA/Shutterstock

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Do we finally have a sense of why so many key Facebook leaders, particularly co-founders of the myriad products that comprise its suite of apps, have left the company over the last year or so? Maybe, if today’s huge news revealed by The New York Times — about the company’s ambition via a directive from Mark Zuckerberg to integrate all of its messaging services — is any indication. Apparently, Zuckerberg wants to not only make the backend more cohesive for products including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. He also wants to make it possible for a Facebook user to start chatting with, say, someone on Instagram who may not even have a Facebook account.

One California congressman, however, is not having it. U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat, took to social media today to blast the social networking giant over the fact that it owns Instagram at all. The company never should have been allowed by antitrust officials to buy Instagram in the first place, Khanna argued, adding that its ownership of the photo-sharing site still raises antitrust concerns in his mind today.

Here’s what apparently triggered him to weigh in on the NYT’s reporting. End users won’t notice much difference after the desired unification of the apps takes place. However, as Fast Company notes in a piece today, “Facebook will very likely begin pooling data collected by the apps to form more complete pictures of consumers, which could increase the value of Facebook advertising. It also raises serious privacy concerns at a time when Facebook is already under the microscope after numerous privacy scandals.”

Which is why it’s also easy to see the attractiveness of a move like this from Facebook’s perspective. The benefits are myriad, including the potential advertising-related benefits as well as giving Facebook a way to feed off the popularity of its other apps. Instagram, for example, has seen its popularity explode dramatically in recent years in tandem with a growing disinterest in Facebook as the place where the average person does most of their social networking.

It’s also good that Zuckerberg apparently wants the cross-platform chats here to be end-to-end encrypted.

All that said, the integration doesn’t seem to be imminent. The company has said work on this might not be completed for another year. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said today that the company wants to “make it easier to reach friends and family across networks” by building “the best messaging experiences we can.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.