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UPDATE 1-UK's competition watchdog begins probe into Facebook's Giphy deal

(Adds Facebook’s comment, details on deal and probe, background)

Jan 28 (Reuters) - UK’s competition watchdog on Thursday launched its initial investigation into Facebook Inc’s completed acquisition of GIF website Giphy, at a time when the social media network is under global regulatory scrutiny over antitrust concerns.

The world’s largest social media company bought Giphy, a website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May last year to integrate it with its rapidly growing photo-sharing app, Instagram.

However, a source told Reuters in June that Facebook was pausing the integration of Giphy into Instagram after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) served an initial enforcement order.

Governments around the world are looking at strengthening the regulation of tech firms that have become even more powerful during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the CMA saying last month that tailored rules should be used to regulate them.

“We will continue to fully cooperate with the CMA’s investigation. This merger is procompetitive and in the interests of everyone in the UK who uses GIPHY and our services,” a Facebook spokesperson said on Thursday.

The CMA said it has until March 25 to decide whether it should make a reference for an in-depth investigation.

Some advocacy groups raised concerns when the deal was announced and Facebook had then said that Giphy’s integrations with other social platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and ByteDance’s TikTok would not change. (Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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