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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook announced Monday that it has purchased a customer service chatbot startup called Kustomer. The app reportedly cost Facebook $1 billion, the same amount it paid for Instagram in 2012.

Why it matters: The deal is the latest sign that the world's biggest tech companies, despite facing enormous antitrust scrutiny globally, will not stop buying up other companies.
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The antitrust pressure is increasing as both companies continue to grow during the pandemic.

Be smart: For both Google and Facebook, recent acquisitions aim to bolster new businesses, like e-commerce, connected fitness and gaming.

  • Facebook earlier this year launched Facebook Shops, its most aggressive push yet into e-commerce. It also added a dedicating shopping tab to its main app in August, and more recently added a shopping tab to Instagram as well.
  • Google's expansion beyond search includes new bets on areas like hardware and wearable technology.

The bottom line: It's harder for regulators to prove that companies like Facebook and Google hold monopolies when they are new entrants in a market, so the companies' acquisitions in newer lines of business may not set off alarms.

Yes, but: Companies this size gain market power quickly.

  • Facebook says that, already, 200 million businesses worldwide use its free tools.
  • In its announcement today, it said that more than 175 million people contact businesses via WhatsApp, the global messaging service it acquired in 2014.

Go deeper: Members of Congress finding agreement on a tech antitrust agenda

Go deeper

14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook, Instagram transfer accounts, followers to Biden administration

Screenshot of official White House Facebook account.

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed that it is transferring the millions of followers of the official Facebook and Instagram White House accounts to the Biden administration.

Details: The accounts for "@POTUS," "@VicePresident" ("@VP" on Instagram) and "@FLOTUS" are having the followers from their personal Pages and accounts be transferred over. It's unclear when that transition process will be complete.

Fortnite developer brings on its first lobbyists

An 11-year-old gamer plays Fortnite in South Pasadena, California, last April. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The company behind the wildly popular video game franchise Fortnite, which is suing Apple over alleged anti-competitive practices, hired its first lobbyists this month to “monitor” antitrust issues in Washington.

Why it matters: Epic Games’ case against Apple has potentially huge legal and financial stakes. The company’s decision to enlist K Street veterans with connections on both sides of the aisle indicates it is tuning into D.C., where both parties have railed against anti-competitive practices in the tech industry.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 20, 2021 - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.