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FTC may seek injunction to prevent Facebook from merging chat features across Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp

Published Dec 12th, 2019 9:10PM EST
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Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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The FTC may seek an injunction in order to prevent Facebook from tightly integrating features across its suite of messaging services. The potential injunction, The Wall Street Journal notes, arises out of fear that once the integration is complete, breaking up Facebook into disparate entities would become difficult, if not impossible.

Word of Facebook’s plan to merge chat features across Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp first surfaced earlier this year and is reportedly being championed by Mark Zuckerberg. Broadly speaking, the planned integration would enable users from one of Facebook’s properties to chat with users from any of the company’s other properties. As a simple example, an Instagram user would be able to seamlessly chat with a WhatsApp user even if the latter party doesn’t have an Instagram account.

While the aforementioned cross-platform chat functionality might be convenient for users, the FTC — as is the trend these days in tech — is worried that Facebook might be amassing far too much power and influence. Ultimately, the concern is that this power would have an adverse impact on the ability of rival messaging services to compete with Facebook on a level playing field.

The Journal notes:

The potential FTC action would likely seek to block Facebook from enforcing those policies on grounds that they are anticompetitive, the people said. An injunction could seek to bar Facebook from further integrating apps that federal regulators might look to unwind as part of a potential future breakup of the company, one of the people said.

A majority of the five-member FTC would be needed to seek an injunction, which the commission would need to file suit in federal court to obtain.

Facebook refused to comment on the matter, but the social networking giant a few months back explained that its overarching goal with platform integration is to “make it easier to reach friends and family across networks.”

To be clear, an injunction isn’t a guarantee at this point, though the Journal notes it could happen as early as next month.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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