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23 Sep, 2019 20:02

'Project Voldemort' Snapchat has been tracking Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior — and now it’s talking to the FTC

'Project Voldemort' Snapchat has been tracking Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior — and now it’s talking to the FTC

With Facebook under investigation for alleged anti-competitive tactics, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seems to be getting help from rival Snapchat, which has reportedly been carefully tracking Facebook’s copycat behavior.

In a dossier known as 'Project Voldemort,' Snapchat's parent company Snap has meticulously detailed Facebook moves which it deemed to be anti-competitive. The dossier includes cases of the Instagram-owner allegedly warning popular Instagram accounts from referencing or posting links to Snapchat profiles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It’s not just Snapchat, either. According to the WSJ, “dozens” of executives and developers are now talking with the FTC over Facebook’s alleged unfair play, including some who had previously worked with start-ups that failed after “losing access to Facebook’s platform” and “founders who sold their companies to Facebook.”

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It's already widely known that Facebook has copied popular features first rolled out by its competitors for both Facebook itself and for its sister platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp. It replicated the 'stories' feature from Snapchat, for instance. Camera filters were also first made popular by Snapchat.

The WSJ's sources claim that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even used threatening tactics to pressure other founders into accepting a Facebook buyout or dealing with the fact that the social media giant will just copy all of its popular features anyway. This tactic was used against Snap's Evan Spiegel and could also have been deployed against Foursquare's Dennis Crowley, the report says.

The talks with rivals like Snapchat are part of the FTC’s attempt to put together “a picture of what might be a pattern of behavior to prevent competition to the core Facebook business,” Gene Kimmelman, a senior advisor at consumer group Public Knowledge, told WSJ.

A Facebook spokesperson downplayed concerns over the Menlo Park-based company’s questionable tactics, dismissing them to the WSJ as normal and saying that companies always “build and iterate on concepts and ideas” in the wider marketplace, either “making them better or taking them in different directions.”

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The social media giant’s practices have also drawn criticism from presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have suggested that regulators need to break up powerful monopoly companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google. Warren claimed this year that the companies have "too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy" and that they have "bulldozed competition.”

It has not been a great year for Facebook, so far. The company was recently handed out the largest ever $5 billion fine by the FTC for privacy violations. It remains to be seen how regulators will deal with Facebook’s copycat behavior.

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