Facebook Beats Q1 Earnings Estimates, Sees User Growth Amid Content Concerns

Despite persistent problems with offensive video content and “fake news,” Facebook easily beat analysts’ earnings expectations for its first quarter.

“We had a strong first quarter and a great start to the year,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told analysts on a Wednesday earnings call. During the quarter, the social giant reported earnings per share of $1.04 on revenue of about $8 billion.

Mobile ad revenue represented about 85% of all ad revenue for the first quarter -- up from approximately 82% of all quarterly ad revenue, year-over-year.

Year-over-year, Facebook saw average daily active users (DAUs) grow 18% to 1.28 billion in March. Monthly active users (MAUs) increased 17% to 1.94 billion, year-over-year. 

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By the end of March, Facebook’s workforce had grown by 38% to 18,770 employees, year-over-year.

Facing growing criticism for its failure to stop the spread of offensive video, Facebook just promised to hire another 3,000 human content monitors. “Over the next year, we'll be adding 3,000 people to our community operations team around the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised in a blog post. That adds to the 4,500 or so people who already make up Facebook’s community operations team.

For Facebook, the hiring spree is part of a larger effort to curb the spread of murders, rapes, and similarly unsuitable video.

The tech titan is also working with local community groups and law enforcement who are well-positioned to act on threats or acts of violence.

Facebook is also building what Zuckerberg insists are “better tools” to keep community members safe. Working with local law enforcement, Zuckerberg said Facebook was recently able to prevent one community member from acting on his expressed suicidal ideations.

That said, “In other cases, we weren't so fortunate,” Zuckerberg admitted.

Indeed, Facebook has recently served as a platform for teens streaming their own suicides, as well as the broadcast of a young woman being raped, and a young man with special needs being tortured. Just last month, Facebook also unwittingly made it possible for an Ohio man to distribute video footage of a murder.

In its statement, Facebook noted that while the assailant did use its Live service, he did not actually broadcast the act of violence live. Still, questions remain about why video of the crime remained on Facebook’s platform for part of the day.

Expanding its war on “false news,” Facebook also recently released a broad plan to stop bad actors from spreading misinformation on its platform.

Facebook is increasingly relying on Instagram to drive revenue growth. In fact, the picture-based network will make up 20% of Facebook’s domestic mobile revenue this year -- up from 15%, last year -- eMarketer estimates.

Fortunately for Facebook, Instagram just recently surpassed 700 million monthly active users, while the network is adding MAUs at a record rate. Facebook’s CFO David Wehner told analysts on Wednesday: “We’re seeing great growth there.”

This past quarter, Facebook also unvieled an AR app marketplace at its F8 conference.

“We’re going to start today with all the basic effects that you’re used to, [including] facemasks, art frames, and style transfers,” Zuckerberg told F8 attendees, last month. The AR marketplace will initially look a lot like Snapchat, which is best known for such tools.

“In the future, more of us are going to contribute to culture and society in ways that are not measured by traditional economics and GDP,” Zuckerberg said, last month.


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