Britain’s competition regulator has told Facebook owner Meta Platforms to sell animated images platform Giphy after finding that the acquisition could harm social media users and UK advertisers, dealing a blow to the US-based tech giant.
The Competition and Markers Authority (CMA) said on Tuesday the decision was in line with provisional findings that Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy in May last year would reduce competition between social media platforms and in the display advertising market.
Facebook, recently rebranded as Meta Platforms, said it could appeal the CMA’s decision.
It is not the first time the CMA has intervened in a major merger. In February it said that Viagogo must sell part of Stubhub’s international business as their merger would reduce competition in the UK.
“The tie-up between Facebook and Giphy has already removed a potential challenger in the display advertising market,” said Stuart McIntosh, chair of the independent investigation on Facebook-Giphy for the CMA.
“By requiring Facebook to sell Giphy, we are protecting millions of social media users and promoting competition and innovation in digital advertising,” he added.
Facebook said it disagreed with the decision.
“We are reviewing the decision and considering all options, including appeal,” a spokesperson for Meta said in a statement.
The CMA in October fined the company about $70 million for breaching an order that was imposed during its investigation into the deal, having hinted in August that it may need Facebook to sell Giphy.
The CMA began a probe into the deal in January this year, and in April referred it to an in-depth investigation.
Facebook bought Giphy, a website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, reportedly for $400 million in May 2020 to integrate it with its photo-sharing app, Instagram. It has defended the deal and its proposals to the CMA over Giphy.
Another major provider of GIFs is Google’s Tenor.
The CMA has been actively looking into big tech’s monopoly.
Last week, Alphabet Inc’s Google pledged more restrictions on its use of data from its Chrome browser to address CMA’s concerns about plans to ban third-party cookies that advertisers use to track consumers.
The Financial Times first reported the CMA’s plans to block the Facebook-Giphy deal.