The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is weighing whether it should seek an injunction against Facebook to prevent the social media giant from integrating services like Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram with its core app, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Regulators fear that Facebook’s app integration plans could make it harder to break up the company. The agency has reportedly not decided on a course of action yet.
The FTC and Facebook declined to comment.
Facebook announced plans to tightly integrate all of its services earlier this year as part of a move towards encrypted communication. Ostensibly meant to safeguard its users’ privacy, unifying the company’s messaging products would effectively turn separate services into one giant communications network with over 2 billion users.
This would make it easier for consumers to communicate with their contacts across messaging services, but it could also give Facebook an unfair advantage over competing messaging products. What’s more, any attempt to break up Facebook, and for instance spin off Instagram into a separate company, would also be a lot harder.
Facebook disclosed in July that it was the subject of a FTC antitrust investigation. The company settled a separate FTC probe of its privacy mishaps for $5 billion this summer. That settlement also included a mandate to form an independent privacy oversight board and give the agency more insights into its privacy practices, but it didn’t fundamentally alter the way the company collects consumer information.
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Calls to break up Facebook, and other tech giants, have become popular among Democratic presidential contenders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The odds of such a forced break-up are seen as slim at best, but reports of a possible injunction could be seen as a sign that regulators don’t want the company to force their hands.