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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.
.

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

Jan 28, 2021 - Technology

Facebook Oversight Board overturns 4 of its 5 first cases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board published its first set of decisions Thursday, overturning four of the five cases it chose to review out of 20,000 cases submitted.

Why it matters: The decision to go against Facebook's conclusions in four out of five instances gives legitimacy to the board, which is funded via a $130 million grant from Facebook.

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Facebook developing a tool to help advertisers avoid bad news

Photo Illustration: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook on Friday said it's testing new advertiser "topic exclusion controls" to help address concerns marketers may have that their ads are appearing next to topics in Facebook's News Feed that they consider bad for their brand.  

Why it matters: As Axios has previously noted, the chaotic nature of the modern news cycle and digital advertising landscape has made it nearly impossible for brands to run ads against quality content in an automated fashion without encountering bad content.