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Facebook reportedly facing another antitrust probe -- from DOJ

Social networking giant is already facing investigations from the FTC, the House antitrust committee and a host of attorneys general.

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The Justice Department is reportedly planning an antitrust investigation of Facebook.

Angela Lang/CNET

The US Justice Department plans to investigate Facebook to determine whether it violated federal antitrust laws, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The investigation, reportedly begun at the urging of US Attorney General William Barr, comes as the Federal Trade Commission conducts its own investigation into whether the social media giant illegally harmed competition.

While the FTC's probe focuses on whether Facebook's acquisitions were intended to stifle competition, the Justice Department's probe will focus on separate behavior, the news outlet reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. Attorneys general from several states and Washington DC are also investigating Facebook over potential antitrust violations.

As the largest social network in the world, Facebook has become an integral part of people's lives online. Critics charge that Facebook has gained its prominence by simply buying up its competition.

The twin investigations come after months of lawmakers arguing that tech giants like Facebook need to be broken up. The Justice Department and the House antitrust subcommittee are also looking at antitrust concerns regarding Facebook, as well as Apple, Google and Amazon.

Facebook revealed in July that the FTC had launched an antitrust investigation into the company, but the social network didn't provide many details. The FTC's investigation reportedly focuses on whether Facebook's purchases of companies such as Instagram and WhatsApp were part of the social media giant's strategy to hobble competition.

The FTC and Justice Department share antitrust enforcement responsibilities but typically reach jurisdiction agreements to avoid overlap. The two agencies divided the investigations of the four tech giants between the two, with Facebook and Amazon going to the Justice Department, while Apple and Google probes went to the FTC.  

But the agreement between the two agencies didn't cover all conduct by the companies, and Barr pressed for the Justice Department to retain jurisdiction over Facebook, Bloomberg reported.

Facebook and the Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.