BEIJING, Dec. 13 (UPI) — U.S. antitrust enforcers are considering a court block from blocking Facebook’s technology system so users can communicate between the company’s apps, according tomedia reports.
The FTC is studying whether to seek a court order to block the company from accessing the three chat services of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Facebook’s plan to consolidate, announced in January, has been criticised. Critics say the move will make it harder to spin off Facebook. The FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice and some states are investigating whether Facebook violated antitrust laws.
Joe Simons, chairman of the FTC, agreed in an August interview with Bloomberg. Asked how difficult it would be to break up Facebook once the services were well integrated, he said it would be “very confusing.”
“It’s hard. He said. “It’s really hard. “
Mr Simmons said at the time that he was willing to appear in court to seek the spin-off of a technology company. Any SEC decision to prosecute would require a majority of the members of the five-member committee to vote on it.
Facebook’s shares fell 4 percent after the story was reported. The stock fell 2.7 percent to $196.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to get through similar chats on Instagram, WhatsApp, the original Facebook site and apps. Facebook says this will allow it to better review and control foreign interference in the U.S. election, the spread of terrorism and the spread of other undesirable content. Currently, users cannot communicate between these services.
The company has begun integrating the messaging system on Instagram, the photo app, with Facebook Messenger, Bloomberg reported. This daunting task will bring the underlying technologies together and require corporate restructuring without changing the interaction between users and services.
Critics, including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, have been concerned about Facebook’s ownership of the apps and their plans to bring them closer together. They see this integration as a source of harm to user privacy. They also say it would allow the company to further abuse its dominant position and resist measures taken by law enforcement to curb its actions.
Facebook says it still faces stiff competition even if it owns the services.
Even if these services are provided by different companies, they can still be communicated by collaborating with each other — a concept known as interoperability. For example, users of Google’s e-mail service can easily receive mail from Microsoft’s services, while users of different telecom operators can also communicate with each other.
However, the integration of mobile chat services is not ideal. Competition experts say interoperability between competitors can promote competition, but Facebook’s plan is to allow the company’s applications to communicate with each other, not with external services.
The U.S. Department of Justice has previously delayed the consolidation plan because it encrypts Instagram and Messenger messages, making them like WhatsApp that facebook can’t see. The US Department of Justice and officials from Australia and the UK said in October that the company should suspend its work until it could ensure it had legal access to user communications. Facebook said in a letter released Tuesday that it rejected the call.
The FTC’s investigation into Facebook, which was made public in July, was partly about whether the social media company should withdraw its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, even though the acquisitions had previously been approved by the FTC.
Many advocates, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, argue that both deals allow Facebook to fend off emerging rivals by acquiring platforms that threaten its dominance. Warren has said she will seek to roll back both deals if she is elected president in 2020.