What you need to know
- Facebook is seemingly under increasing governmental scrutiny over its control of three of the biggest chat platforms in existence.
- The Wall Street Journal reports the FTC is looking into the social media giant's plans to integrate the three platforms into one.
- The FTC may seek an injunction to stop the move, according to the report.
Facebook has reportedly been hard at work at amalgamating its three chat platforms — Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram — since the start of the year. The company's toil may all have been for naught, however, if recent concerns by the FTC come to pass. The Wall Street Journal reports the federal agency has become increasingly more intrigued by the company's plans and may be looking to stop it in its tracks.
While concerns about Facebook monopolizing online messaging are not unfounded, the fact that Facebook already owns WhatsApp and Instagram means an injunction at this point might be too little, too late via a vis Facebook's power over our social lives. Indeed, the report suggests that the FTC's increasing scrutiny may not be borne entirely of competition concerns; instead, the agency may be looking to stop any further integration between the three platforms to leave open the door to breaking up Facebook at some point in the future, a task that would become monumentally more difficult if their backends were more entangled with one another.
On the flip side, Facebook's success in doing so would not only signify a monumental feat of engineering, but it would also yield significant benefits for users of all three platforms. For one, it would enable a WhatsApp user to chat with someone on Instagram without having an account on the photo-sharing website. It would potentially also dramatically expand the opportunities available to those conducting business using Facebook's various commercial and financial offerings. Most important of all, it would allow for encrypted communication across all three platforms.
An injunction by the agency is not a given yet and would require three out of its five commissioners to vote for it. However, the Journal reports that if it does come to pass, we could see the FTC taking action against Facebook as soon as January. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is reportedly also looking to open up its own antitrust investigation into the tech giant, with some reports suggesting that investigation will also look closely at past acquisitions by the company, such as those of WhatsApp and Instagram.