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The Federal Trade Commission's antitrust probe of Facebook is looking at whether the social network used acquisitions to take out its competition, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: It suggests that the agency was serious when it said it might look at already-completed mergers and acquisitions as part of a broader review of the tech sector.

Flashback: Two major acquisitions, of Instagram and WhatsApp, have given Facebook a shield against declining user growth on its classic social platform for nearly a decade.

  • It bought Instagram first, in 2012, for $1 billion.
  • It purchased WhatsApp two years later for $19 billion.

In recent years, critics have contended that those deals allowed Facebook to stifle competition.

  • They say Facebook has used proprietary data, via a virtual private network called Onavo that it acquired in 2013, to identify small companies gaining market share and buy them before they can present too much of a threat.
  • Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called for appointing regulators who might be willing to unwind those acquisitions by Facebook, and other purchases by major internet firms.

Yes, but: The exact nature of the FTC's inquiries are not yet clear. Investigations are generally cloaked in secrecy and can take years.

The bigger picture: The increased antitrust scrutiny of major tech giants may already be affecting their decisions about what companies to acquire — and whether the extra fight in D.C. is worth the effort.

Go deeper

Pompeo, wife misused State Dept. resources, federal watchdog finds

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The State Department's independent watchdog found that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules when he and his wife asked department employees to perform personal tasks on more than 100 occasions, including picking up their dog and making private dinner reservations.

Why it matters: The report comes as Pompeo pours money into a new political group amid speculation about a possible 2024 presidential run.

Dead malls get new life

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Malls are becoming ghosts of retail past. But the left-behind real estate is being reimagined for a post-pandemic world.

Why it matters: As many as 17% of malls in the U.S. "may no longer be viable as shopping centers and need to be redeveloped into other uses," per Barclays.