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.

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Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 19,497,292 — Total deaths: 723,854 — Total recoveries — 11,823,105Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 4,994,276 — Total deaths: 162,381 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid.
  4. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective — 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  6. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.

Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid

President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday signed four executive actions to provide relief from economic damage sustained during the coronavirus pandemic after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Because the Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate federal spending, Trump has limited authority to act unilaterally — and risks a legal challenge if congressional Democrats believe he has overstepped.

8 hours ago - World

What's next for Lebanon after the Beirut explosion

Photo: Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Beirut residents are still clearing rubble from streets that appear war-torn, days after a blast that shocked the country and horrified the world.

Why it matters: The explosion is likely to accelerate a painful cycle Lebanon was already living through — discontent, economic distress, and emigration.