As revenue soars...

Zuckerberg says Facebook claims paint ‘false picture’


Under pressure: Facebook

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered an emotional defence of the social media giant last night amid criticism of its practices and influence on young people.

Mr Zuckerberg, speaking on a call with analysts after the release of third quarter figures, said large companies should be scrutinised, but accused Facebook’s critics of using leaked documents to “paint a false picture” of the company.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen travelled to London to offer MPs her support for the UK government’s plan to impose external regulation on social networks.

Ms Haugen, a former Facebook employee, said they were right to rein in the tech company’s management and reduce what she called the damage being done to society.

She released tens of thousands of documents about its internal operations and told the parliamentary hearing that social media platforms needed to take some responsibility for content on their sites.

She said that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and used by millions of children worldwide, may never be safe for pre-teens.

The company’s own research found Instagram was more dangerous than other social media such as TikTok and Snapchat because the platform is focused on “social comparison about bodies, about people’s lifestyles, and that’s what ends up being worse for kids”, she said.

Mr Zuckerberg, speaking after releasing third quarter results were announced, defended the company he founded.

“The reality is that we have an open culture where we encourage discussion and research about our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us,” he said. “We have industry-leading programs to study the effects of our products and provide transparency to our progress.”

He said the company has made “massive” investments in safety and security with more than 40,000 people and is on track to spend more than $5bn in that area in all of 2021.

Despite the controversy shares in Facebook initially rose more than 3% on Nasdaq in after-hours trading, before settling 1% higher, as it reported a 35% rise in third quarter revenue to $29 billion. Profit rose 17% to $9.19bn (£6.68bn).

The figures, which just missed analysts’ forecasts, also showed that the number of people using Facebook’s family of apps grew 12% year-over-year, to nearly 3.6 billion during the quarter.

However, the company’s ability to head off crises may be coming under pressure. Its revenue depends heavily on advertising and it is in a vulnerable state because of recent changes to Apple’s app tracking rules.

Apple’s iOS 14.5 software update, which went into effect in April, requires that users give explicit permission for apps to track their behaviour and sell their personal data, such as age, location, spending habits and health information, to advertisers.

Facebook has aggressively pushed back against the changes and warned investors last year that the update could hurt its business if many users opt out of tracking.

On Monday, it warned that the iOS 14 changes could create “continued headwinds” in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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