Facebook profits top $9bn despite whistleblower revelations

Tech giant notes 6% rise in daily active users and revenue above $29bn due to online adverts

Facebook’s profits topped $9 billion (€7.75 billion) during its most recent financial quarter, clearing investor predictions even as the company faces an onslaught of negative publicity over a significant release of whistleblower documents.

The company revealed in its Monday earnings report that it saw a 6 per cent year-on-year increase of daily active users, reaching an average of 1.93 billion for September 2021. Its revenue grew 35 per cent to $29.01 billion, thanks to a boom in online advertising.

Facebook’s financial wins came amid intense scrutiny, after a consortium of news organisations published stories on Monday based on documents leaked by the whistleblower Frances Haugen. The latest documents have revealed the extent to which Facebook knew about the aggressive spread of misinformation and hate speech on its platform, that it was reluctant to censor right-wing news organisations for fear of angering the Trump administration, and how it struggled to crack down on human trafficking operations advertised on Instagram.

Facebook’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he is optimistic about the company’s ongoing investment in the metaverse – essentially, a digital world built over our own, comprising virtual reality headsets and augmented reality.

In keeping with those goals, Facebook will now report the company’s virtual reality revenue separately. That means it will divide into two categories: its “family of apps” including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp and the “reality labs” products including AR and VR as well as any related hardware.

“We made good progress this quarter and our community continues to grow,” he said. “I’m excited about our roadmap, especially around creators, commerce and helping to build the metaverse.”

Facebook has remained an economic juggernaut in recent years despite growing regulatory headwinds and public criticism, including revelations from Ms Haugen and another unnamed whistleblower outlining the company’s cutthroat internal workings that prioritise profit over potential safety concerns.

The company had also issued dramatic warnings to investors that a new Apple privacy policy enacted in early 2021 would have a negative impact on revenue. Those policies, which require user permission to carry out advertising tracking, ultimately had little effect, the report showed.

“The biggest takeaway here is that the changes to Apple privacy settings have not hurt Facebook in a major way, at least not yet,” said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at investing.com. “That shows Facebook continues to hold pricing power in the digital ad market, where it remains one of the most significant players and trend setters.” – Guardian