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Progressive groups want FTC to split Facebook into multiple companies

Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger would be spun off into separate companies.
Swapna Krishna, @skrishna
May 21, 2018
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Today, Axios reports that progressive groups will launch an advertising offensive aimed squarely at Facebook. Their mission? To convince the FTC to break up the company. They also want users on competing social networks to be able to communicate with one another, as well as the implementation of stronger privacy rules.

"Facebook is in a competitive environment where people use our apps at the same time they use free services offered by many others," a Facebook spokesperson told Engadget. "The average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected. People use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger because they find them valuable, and we've been able to better fight spam and abuse and build new features much faster by working under one roof. We support smart privacy regulation and efforts that make it easier for people to take their data to competing services. But rather than wait, we've simplified our privacy controls and introduced new ways for people to access and delete their data, or to take their data with them."

These ads will run online, and the groups (which include the Open Market Institute and MoveOn Civic Action) are putting six figures of spending power behind them. They will run on both Twitter and Facebook, as well as as more traditional display units on websites.

The groups believe that the new FTC chairman, Joe Simons, might be amenable to taking on a big tech company. While some commissioners might be sympathetic, Axios notes that no commissioners have come out in support of breaking up any American tech giants.

Facebook has certainly been in some hot water recently over fake news and privacy issues, and it's become popular to cry for more regulation of the social networking service from both the left and the right (who claim that Facebook shows liberal bias). But this feels like a stretch. There are multiple options when it comes to social networking and messaging apps. Facebook doesn't operate all, or even a majority, of them. While stricter privacy controls would be welcome news, breaking up the company doesn't seem like the answer to that problem.

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