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Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Wired

Instagram head Adam Mosseri tells Axios that Facebook spent $400 million to acquire Giphy, the popular platform of sharable animated images, not because it wants to harvest data from the company and its users but because it aims to integrate Giphy's talent and creator ecosystem into Instagram.

Why it matters: Facebook is facing intense scrutiny for its market power, specifically pertaining to the way it leverages user data from acquisitions for advertising.

Details: "On Giphy the most interesting thing to me is how quickly some people jump to data always, which is a reminder of how important privacy is and how often we oversimplify things," Mosseri tells Axios.

  • "On the motivations for Giphy, the short answer is it’s not about data. The three big ideas were keeping the platform going, working with a scrappy creative team with different DNA, and the creator ecosystem given how much we care about that group."
  • "In terms of trends, the bonus that we can learn about what GIFs are trending generally is interesting."

Be smart: The Facebook-Giphy transaction is not subject to any mandatory merger control review, a source familiar with the deal told Axios' Margaret Harding McGill. Such reviews are triggered for deals that reach certain financial thresholds.

  • Still, Facebook is already getting significant blowback for the deal, primarily from open markets and consumer advocate groups.

Mosseri says another big motivation for buying the company was to "keep the platform going."

  • A source close to the deal says Giphy came to Instagram amid financial struggles prior to the pandemic, although conversations were initially more about a partnership than an acquisition.
  • Giphy currently is integrated across most of Facebook's services. Facebook says its apps account for roughly half of Giphy's engagement.

Asked why Giphy will be housed within Instagram and not Facebook more broadly, Mosseri says, "Instagram is very focused on expression, youth and creators, all of which align with Giphy. That said, I’d be excited about them joining anywhere in the company."

  • Giphy is expected to retain its own branding, with its primary integration to come via Facebook's Instagram platform.
  • Instagram accounts for roughly 25% of Giphy's current engagement.

Yes, but: Critics argue that aside from the antitrust concerns, there are copyright problems surrounding Giphy, whose library of images includes many taken from popular TV shows and movies.

  • Mosseri did not answer questions about copyright, but a Facebook spokesperson notes that Giphy's content would be subject to Facebook's existing notice-and-takedown program and repeat infringer policy.

The big picture: Facebook's acquisition of Giphy comes two years after Facebook rival Google bought Giphy's main rival, Tenor.

  • Asked whether the company had that in mind when contemplating the Giphy deal, Mosseri said, "The Tenor acquisition wasn’t a major factor in either direction."

Go deeper

Facebook draws a line on QAnon

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook announced on Wednesday it has banned or restricted hundreds of groups, pages and Instagram accounts that "demonstrated significant risks to public safety" via their ties to the right-wing QAnon conspiracy movement.

Why it matters: QAnon has morphed from a fringe conspiracy theory into a sprawling network of falsehoods sowing fear and confusion as it has seeped into the mainstream and taken stances on critical issues like the coronavirus pandemic and election integrity.

Updated 11 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.