Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is contemplating discontinuing the cross-app messaging feature between the two platforms. The potential change, expected to take effect in October, was revealed through a leaked screenshot and comes as a surprise to many who have grown accustomed to the integrated messaging experience across the two platforms.
Leak Shows Potential Change
The screenshot, shared by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, indicates that users might not be able to communicate with their Facebook friends via Instagram after mid-October. The message in the screenshot states, “After mid-October, you will no longer be able to chat with Facebook friends on Instagram, so this chat will become read-only. Start a new chat on Messenger or Facebook to continue the conversation.”
— Alessandro Paluzzi (@alex193a) August 31, 2023
History of Cross-App Messaging
In 2020, Meta introduced the feature allowing Instagram users to message their Facebook friends without leaving the Instagram app, and vice versa. This integration also brought several Messenger-specific features to Instagram, including the ability to reply to specific messages, forward messages, and customize chat colors. Users could search for Facebook friends on Instagram and similarly find Instagram friends on Messenger. The cross-app integration settings were customizable, allowing users to decide where messages from Messenger contacts would appear on Instagram.
Over the years, Meta has consistently worked on integrating Facebook and Instagram. Beyond messaging, users have been able to share Stories, Posts, and Reels across both platforms. To facilitate this, users could link their Facebook and Instagram accounts via the Meta Accounts Center.
EU Court of Justice Rules Against Meta's Data Merging Practices
In a landmark ruling in July, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) sided with Germany's competition regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, against Meta. The court declared that Meta's practice of merging user data from its various services without obtaining explicit user consent is illegal. This decision reinforces the 2019 Bundeskartellamt's finding that Meta was leveraging its dominant market position to collect and process user data without their explicit consent.
Meta's business model, which heavily depends on detailed user data analysis to serve personalized advertising, was under scrutiny for exploiting its market dominance. Despite the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect, Meta refrained from seeking explicit user consent for data processing, arguing that personalized advertising was a “contractual necessity.” This stance was later rejected by the European Data Protection Board, leading Meta to modify its terms of service.
The ECJ's ruling clarified that competition authorities have the jurisdiction to investigate and prohibit potentially unlawful data protection practices if they detect market abusive behavior. The court also emphasized that Meta's processing of sensitive data without seeking consent, which could disclose information like religious beliefs or sexual orientation, is a violation of the GDPR.
In light of these developments, Meta's future strategies and business model might undergo significant transformations, potentially paving the way for non-commercial, decentralized, and free services to gain prominence in the digital realm.
Meta Inc. Recent Developments
September 2, 2023: In response to increasing regulatory oversight and privacy concerns in Europe, Meta is considering the launch of paid versions of Facebook and Instagram for EU users. These versions would be free from advertisements, marking a potential shift in Meta's approach to its European audience.
August 31, 2023: Meta announced that it would allow users to select the data that is used for training its large language model, Llama 2. This move is part of Meta's commitment to transparency and user control in the realm of AI development.
August 23, 2023: Meta confirmed the introduction of an AI ‘Off-Switch' for Facebook and Instagram in Europe. This feature allows users to view non-personalized content feeds, focusing on Stories and Reels from only those they follow, arranged chronologically.
August 3, 2023: Instagram began testing AI-content labeling to combat misinformation concerns. This feature would notify users about posts created or edited using AI, ensuring transparency and authenticity in content dissemination.
July 6, 2023: Meta launched a new social network named Threads. Within seven hours of its release, the platform garnered over 10 million users, including notable figures like Oprah Winfrey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Positioned as a direct competitor to Twitter, Threads aims to foster public conversations and has already caught the attention of advertisers, despite not yet offering ad placements.
June 27, 2023: Meta introduced new parental control tools for Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Aimed at offering parents more insight into their teens' online activities, these tools promote healthier digital habits and ensure a safer online environment for younger users.