The outcome of that decision could be important for Facebook, because the FTC has been more reluctant to challenge the company’s deals in the past.
The top two U.S. antitrust agencies are fighting again, this time over which of them should review Facebook’s merger with GIF search engine Giphy.
The 2-billion-member social media network said last month it was acquiring Giphy for an undisclosed sum, the latest in a series of deals that have extended Facebook’s reach across much of the online world. Unlike many larger corporate deals, the companies didn’t have to report the deal to the U.S. antitrust agencies for their review because of exemptions within federal merger law.
Now the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are seeking to review the merger on their own initiatives to determine whether it should be allowed to go forward, according to two people familiar with the discussions who weren’t authorized to speak on the record.
But the two agencies haven’t resolved a dispute over which one should take on the task, the people said.
The outcome of that decision could be important for Facebook, because the FTC has been more reluctant to challenge the company’s deals in the past — as well as for the agencies themselves, each of which is pursuing high-profile antitrust probes into Silicon Valley’s biggest players.
The agencies have split before on Facebook. Last year, FTC Chair Joseph Simons and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim reached a handshake deal to allow the FTC to pursue a monopolization investigation into Facebook, while DOJ would run a monopolization investigation into Google. Within a few months, the two agencies butted heads over the scope of the Facebook probe, and DOJ opened its own wide-ranging investigation into a number of tech companies, including Facebook. The dispute spilled over in a tense Senate oversight hearing last fall.
The FTC has previously reviewed several Facebook mergers, including its purchase of Instagram and its merger with WhatsApp. Both those prior acquisitions are part of the agency’s current monopolization investigation.
Giphy is an online library for GIFs and stickers, an increasingly popular feature among young people who use them to communicate in lieu of text. Facebook previously sought to acquire Giphy in 2015, but the company opted to remain separate. Google bought competing GIF library Tenor in 2018.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.