Facing intense pressure to curb trolls, spreaders of fake news and other bad actors, Facebook is vowing to sacrifice future profits for a better-policed platform.
“I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security -- on top of the other investments we’re making -- that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors during a Wednesday earnings call.
“I’m dead serious about this,” Zuckerberg said. “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
Softening the sting for investors, the proclamation was delivered directly following the release of a stellar third-quarter earnings report.
Still, as Facebook watchers note, the company’s inability to cure its troll problem will ultimately cost it more in profits than any short-term security investment.
“Longer term, they will need to ensure the [troll-related] PR crisis doesn’t turn into a decline in user growth, or worse, that they start to lose members who don’t trust the platform,” Jordan Cohen, CMO of digital marketing firm Fluent, said Wednesday.
Before Congress this week, Facebook had to explain how trolls backed by the Russian government were able to reach roughly 126 million U.S. users, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
For Facebook, the revelation was all the more embarrassing because it had estimated that only around 10 million U.S. users had been exposed to Russian disinformation.
Among other profit-compromising investments in security and “election integrity,” Facebook recently vowed to hire more than 250 people across related teams.
But Facebook’s investment in platform security goes far beyond that, as Zuckerberg explained on Wednesday.
“We already have about 10,000 people working on safety and security, and we’re planning to double that to 20,000 in the next year to better enforce our Community Standards and review ads,” the tech mogul told investors.
“In many places, we're doubling or more our engineering efforts focused on security,” Zuckerberg added. “We are also building new AI to detect bad content and bad actors -- just like we've done with terrorist propaganda.”
Still, considering its revenue rose nearly 50% to $10.3 billion, this past quarter, Facebook has money to burn.
At most, Facebook’s additional security investments may have a “slight impact” on profits, suggested Rich Kahn, cofounder and CEO of digital marketing firm eZanga.