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Facebook's $400 million Giphy acquisition is part of an unrelenting startup shopping spree that's practically daring antitrust regulators to try and stop it (FB)

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg
  • Facebook acquired GIF-hosting startup Giphy on Friday for a reported $400 million.
  • It's the latest in a string of acquisitions by Facebook over the last few months collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The flurry of activity comes despite mounting regulatory and critical scrutiny of Facebook over its acquisitions.
  • Facebook is signalling that it's unconcerned, and is effectively challenging regulators to bring it on.
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Facebook is on a shopping spree.
Over the last few months, the Silicon Valley tech giant has snapped up multiple buzzy startups in acquisitions collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even as the company faces regulatory scrutiny over its vast size and power.
Taken together, the deals — which range from brain-computing tech firms to video game startups — are a striking demonstration of Facebook's continued aggressive push for growth and apparent disregard for calls for its acquisitions to be reined in on antitrust grounds.
On Friday, the $600 billion company announced it had snapped up Giphy, an online animated GIF-hosting service, for a reported $300 million — 400 million.
It's just the latest in a long string of acquisitions in the last nine months, that also include:
  • In September 2019, Facebook acquired CTRL-labs, a startup building tech to allow people to control computers with their minds. CNBC reported the deal was between $500 million and $1 billion.
  • In September 2019, Facebook bought Packagd, a small startup working on a video shopping service, Bloomberg reported.
  • In September 2019, Facebook acquired customer service tech startup Servicefriend.
  • In November 2019, Facebook bought Beat Games, the studio behind virtual reality hit Beat Saber, for an undisclosed amount.
  • In December 2019, Facebook acquired Spanish gaming startup PlayGiga for a reported $78 million.
  • In February 2020, Facebook bought UK-based computer vision startup Scape Technologies in what TechCrunch reported was a $40 million deal.
  • In February 2020, Facebook acquired virtual reality games studio Sanzaru Games for an undisclosed amount.
Facebook also invested $5.7 billion in Indian telecoms and tech firm Reliance Jio in April 2020, which — while not an acquisition — also illustrates Facebook's keenness to utilize outside companies to bolster its products and its dominance.
Acquisitions have been Facebook's bread-and-butter for years. The company has achieved a near-stranglehold on the social media sector by being quick to snap up other, up-and-coming companies that could prove a threat to it as much as through in-house innovation. Three of its core products — photo-sharing app Instagram, messaging service WhatsApp, and virtual reality firm Oculus — all began life as outside companies before being acquired.
mark zuckerberg giphy
But as Facebook's scandals mounted in recent years, so did scrutiny of the company's market power and what its critics claimed was anti-competitive behaviour — including the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Antagonists now calling for regulatory antitrust action range from onetime Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren to Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes. As of October 2019, 47 attorneys general were investigating the company on antitrust issues.
Other big tech firms are also feeling the heat. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a coalition of the US Justice Department and various state attorneys general are planning to file antitrust lawsuits against Google.

Giphy isn't just GIFs — it's a huge cache of data for Facebook

Despite all this, Facebook seems unfazed. The company continues to throw around huge globs of cash to snap up strategically advantageous companies and technologies. It's telling its critics and regulators: Bring it on.
Giphy's real value to Facebook isn't as a bountiful collection of amusing animated GIFs. It is integrated into numerous other messaging services used by competitors to Facebook, from Apple's iMessage to the privacy-focused Signal. By acquiring it, Facebook will gain access to a rich vein information about how consumers are using its rivals' messaging products.
Facebook has sought out this kind of competitive data before, most controversially with Onavo, a VPN service that funneled info on users' smartphone usage back to Facebook, allowing it to spot potential threats early. Facebook's utilization of Onavo has become a subject of an EU antitrust probe into the company's practices, the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2020.
It remains to be seen how Facebook will ultimately harness Giphy's cache of data — and how regulators will respond.
Facebook's acquisition of Giphy is also a bold show of the firm's continued financial strength. Amid a pandemic that has caused economic devastation across the globe, Facebook can boast stable revenues, looks likely to ride out coronavirus relatively comfortably and is now boldly expanding to strengthen its position in the coming years.
Do you work at Facebook or Giphy? Contact Business Insider reporter Rob Price via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 650-636-6268), encrypted email (robaeprice@protonmail.com), standard email (rprice@businessinsider.com), Telegram/Wickr/WeChat (robaeprice), or Twitter DM (@robaeprice). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by standard email only, please.
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* This article was originally published here

https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-acquiring-startups-antitrust-scrutiny-giphy-2020-5

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