What antitrust investigation?

February 11, 2021, 2:00 PM UTC

Facebook appears to be relying on its age-old playbook even as antitrust regulators investigate the company for anti-competitive behavior. 

The social media app, which is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and 46 states, has a history of cloning popular features from its buzzy competitors. The latest target? None other than Clubhouse, the trendy new invitation-only audio app that allows users to speak to each other or listen in on a conversation in a chatroom. 

Facebook executives reportedly told employees to create a similar product, which is now in its earliest stages of development, according to The New York Times. The news came just six days after CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopped on Clubhouse to chat about remote work and augmented and virtual reality. 

Zuckerberg isn’t the only tech exec to make an appearance on the app. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, and tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban all have gotten in on the action. The app is rapidly gaining users and has become a hotspot for venture capitalists and techies. So it’s no surprise that Facebook may want a piece of that pie.   

The company did the same thing after failing to buy Snapchat. Instead, it released Stories, short video clips that disappear after 24 hours—a feature often credited to Snapchat. Facebook also made a TikTok-like feature when it released Instagram Reels in August

In response to reports of a Clubhouse replica, a Facebook spokesperson offered Fortune the following statement: “We’ve been connecting people through audio and video technologies for many years and are always exploring new ways to improve that experience for people.” 

What is a surprise—but perhaps shouldn’t be—is Facebook’s decision to continue engaging in behaviors that led to an antitrust investigation in the first place. Regulators are concerned that Facebook uses aggressive acquisition tactics such as cloning other companies’ features. Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook has “adapted features that others have led in” after being grilled by the House Antitrust Subcommittee last year.

But so far, the strategy has worked in Facebook’s favor. Facebook continues to be the dominant social media app, generating $84.2 billion in revenue last year. Instagram, which would’ve become one of its biggest rivals had it not been acquired, has become one of its most valuable assets, and Stories are proving to be a promising feature for advertisers. 

As the saying goes, imitation is the best form of flattery—that is, unless Facebook is the imitator.  

Danielle Abril


Social distancing; quarantining; avoiding bars and restaurants. The very public health guidance that saves lives and slows the spread of COVID-19 would seem to make dating during a pandemic impossible. But people have flocked to online dating apps: Tinder set a record for daily swipes, counting 3 billion on March 29, 2020. Between March and May of last year, OkCupid saw a 700% increase in dates. In this episode of Brainstorm, hosts Michal Lev-Ram and Brian O’Keefe look at the pandemic-fueled boom in online dating. Listen to the episode here.


Find me in the club. Speaking of Clubhouse, new numbers show just how popular the app has become. The app has been downloaded about 4.7 million times since it debuted in September of last year, according to mobile app analytics company Apptopia. That’s up from 1 million downloads in December of last year. The impressive part about all of this is the invitation-only app is still only available on iOS devices. 

Political pullback. Two weeks ago, during Facebook’s earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the social network would soon be exploring ways to reduce political content in users' News Feed. On Wednesday, the company said it started dialing down political content for a “small percentage” of people in Canada, Brazil, and Indonesia this week and the U.S. in “the coming weeks.” Facebook said the tests will help it explore which approaches work best.

Pausing the clock. TikTok’s deal with Oracle and Walmart has been put on hold while President Joe Biden reviews efforts made by Donald Trump to address security concerns, according to The Wall Street Journal. Last year, Trump signed an executive order, citing national security concerns, aimed at forcing the sale of TikTok from Chinese-based ByteDance to a U.S.-based company. The Biden administration on Wednesday requested a delay on the appeal the government filed in December. The Trump administration aimed to overturn a federal court’s injunction that blocked the TikTok ban in the U.S. 

Forever, forever, ever. Twitter’s ban of Donald Trump is permanent. Forever. Finito. In an interview on CNBC, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said even if Trump runs for office again, he won’t be allowed back on the service. Following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Twitter banned Trump citing a risk of inciting further violence. Segal said once users are booted from the service for violating its policies, they aren’t allowed back, regardless of status. Meanwhile, the ban doesn’t seem to have impacted the social media company, which reported that its user base still grew during the fourth quarter.


Some good news in coronavirus detection: By monitoring people's heart rate, the Apple Watch can identify the onset of COVID-19 up to seven days prior to a nasal swab diagnosis, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research by researchers from Mount Sinai Health System. The study observed healthcare workers, who wore an Apple Watch to monitor their heart rate variability between April and September. 

"This study highlights the future of digital health. It shows that we can use these technologies to better address evolving health needs, which will hopefully help us improve the management of disease. Our goal is to operationalize these platforms to improve the health of our patients and this study is a significant step in that direction. Developing a way to identify people who might be sick even before they know they are infected would be a breakthrough in the management of COVID-19," Dr. Robert P. Hirten, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.


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