In Depth

Has Facebook turned a corner after 2018’s privacy scandals?

Social media giant posts record profits and sees jump in number of users

A series of privacy scandals has done little to dissuade users from logging into Facebook as the social media giant has posted record profits for the final three months of 2018. 

Facebook racked up $6.9bn (£5.3bn) in profits during its final quarter, a significant increase on the $4.3bn (£3.3bn) it amassed during the same period in 2017. Revenue rose by 30% to $16.6bn (£12.9bn), The Guardian reports. 

The social media service also has more people logging in every day, culminating in a 9% growth in user activity, the newspaper says.

Facebook estimates that around two billion users log in to at least one of its apps, which include Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, every day.

Facebook’s performance has come as a surprise to many, given the number of controversies it has been embroiled in since the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. 

Earlier this week, TechCrunch discovered that Facebook has been paying $20 in gift vouchers to users as young as 13 to harvest their data. There were also a series of data breaches in 2018, including the leaked photographs of up to 6.8 million users. 

But these incidents do not seem to have swayed Facebook’s backers. Speaking to Sky News, Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst from research firm eMarketer, said the news proves that “advertisers are clearly still very reliant on Facebook”.

She added that the social media firm had “demonstrated that the challenges of 2018 have not had a lasting impact on its ability to increase both revenues and usage”.

Has Facebook turned a corner?

Facebook’s profits and revenue figures would suggest that last year’s scandals have done little to impact the company’s ability to make money, but some believe the company is facing an uphill battle. 

The firm’s reports show that growth in the US and Europe, two of its “largest and most profitable markets”, has “pretty much stopped” in recent months, according to Wired. Most of the company’s growth has come from Asia, where users generate a third of the amount of revenue as those in the US and Canada.

The tech site also claims that Facebook’s next quarterly report may be “less encouraging” than its figures for the final period of 2018. This is because the firm plans to invest heavily in Facebook Watch, its online video service, and Marketplace, which could drive yearly expenses up by as much as 50%.

For now, though, Facebook seems to be “doing better than ever, no matter how you crunch the numbers”, The Verge concludes.

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