Facebook is thriving despite all the horrible things it has done

Zuckerberg: “We've started to turn a corner and have a clear plan for what we need to do now.”
January 31, 2019, 11:54am
facebook
Getty Images

A record of facilitating ethnic cleansing, leaking private data and generally undermining democracy would usually impact badly on a business.

For Facebook it means record revenue, record profits and a record number of users.

The company published its earnings report for the final three months of 2018 after markets closed Wednesday, revealing that despite near-constant negative news over the past 12 months, advertisers are still pumping money into the platform.

The social media giant reported profits of $6.9 billion on revenue of $16.9 billion for the final three months of 2018 — the end of what critics called Facebook’s worst year ever. This compares to $4.2 billion profit and $13 billion in revenue during the same period in 2017.

“We've started to turn a corner and have a clear plan for what we need to do now,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts on a call Wednesday, adding that “there's a lot of negativity about technology — some of it is fair, some of it is misplaced.”

Facebook’s stock was up 11 percent in pre-market trading Thursday.

However, the biggest surprise was the growth in the network’s user numbers.

Facebook now has 1.52 billion people logging into its service every single day, and 2.32 billion logging in at least once a month — both figures up 9 percent from the previous year.

“In terms of the impact of the press cycle [over the past year], I’ll just let the numbers stand for themselves,” Facebook CFO Dave Wehner told analysts when asked about users.

READ: Facebook pays teenagers $20 a month to monitor what they do online

Most of that growth is coming from countries such India, Indonesia and the Philippines the company said, while growth in North America remains sluggish — though even here Facebook added 1 million new users in the last three months of 2018.

The company also revealed plans to stop giving platform specific users numbers and instead publish the overall number for all its services — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp — which mirrors its decision to merge all its platforms into a single unified system.

That figure currently stands at 2.7 billion people.

While many people — including the Irish data protection commissioner — have raised privacy concerns about the move, Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that it was not a commercial decision but one driven by a desire to provide end-to-end encryption on all its products.

But critics are still not convinced Facebook is doing enough to protect its users.

“Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are trying to shift gears and move on, but failed to mention civil rights even once [on the call] — Color Of Change has not yet seen the changes necessary for Facebook to take a victory lap,” Brandi Collins-Dexter from the activist group said in an emailed statement.

Cover image: In this photo illustration, the logos of the messaging applications, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram are displayed on the screen of an Apple iPhone in front of a computer screen displaying a Facebook logo on January 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Chesnot/Getty Images)