Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons has raised concerns over Facebook’s plans to unify certain features across Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, saying that they may hinder a potential break up of the company.
Simons told the Financial Times that any attempts by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s to combine features across the three platforms could be problematic and went on to say:
“If they're maintaining separate business structures and infrastructure, it's much easier to have a divestiture in that circumstance than in where they're completely enmeshed and all the eggs are scrambled.”
Simons’ comments come after a report from earlier this year suggested that Facebook plans to combine the messaging features across Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. These plans would allow users of the different apps to send messages to each other via a unified messaging system.
Following these reports, Zuckerberg has also shared his future vision for Facebook and said that one of the core principles will be “interoperability” which he describes as: “People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.”
If Zuckerberg’s future vision plays out, then this “interoperability” will likely lead to increased merging of other features across Facebook and other Facebook-owned apps.
Despite the potential difficulties that combining features across Facebook’s apps may cause for the FTC, Simons wants the antitrust investigation of Facebook finished before the US 2020 presidential election:
“Any significant case that I’m trying to emphasize, I would want to be out before the election.”
Facebook recently settled with the FTC in a separate privacy investigation and was fined one month’s revenue. However, the deal was criticized for letting the company off for all its past privacy violations.
For this investigation, the FTC appears to be considering greater punishments for Facebook and other tech giants with Simons saying last week that the FTC is prepared to break up big tech companies by “undoing past mergers.”