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As Facebook’s general counsel wrapped a marathon two-day testimony in front of Congress over Russia’s use of its platform to influence the U.S. election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said curbing abuse on the social network “is more important than maximizing our profits.”
The statement, released Wednesday as part of Facebook’s third-quarter earnings, indicated that an investment in security could in the future hurt the company’s bottom line.
“Our community continues to grow and our business is doing well,” reads Zuckerberg’s full statement. “But none of that matters if our services are used in ways that don’t bring people closer together. We’re serious about preventing abuse on our platforms. We’re investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
Russian activity on the platform didn’t have an impact on Facebook’s growth during the third quarter. On Wednesday afternoon, the company reported that it grew revenue by 47 percent during the quarter to $10.3 billion. It earned $1.59 per share, up from 90 cents per share during the same period last year.
Facebook beat analyst expectations, and hit company milestones, for both metrics. Wall Street, as polled by Thomson Reuters, was anticipating revenue of $9.84 billion on earnings of $1.28 per share.
Facebook’s audience grew 16 percent during the quarter to 1.37 billion daily active users. The number of active monthly users on Facebook grew 16 percent to 2.07 billion.
Mobile advertising represented 88 percent of advertising revenue for the quarter and 84 percent of all revenue during the period.
Facebook is one of several tech platforms, including Twitter and Google, that Russian-linked companies used to influence the outcome of the U.S. election. The social network previously disclosed that Russia’s Internet Research Agency created 80,000 posts that could have been seen by as many as 126 million people. In the days since the disclosure, Facebook has made strides to correct the problem, including committing to providing more transparency about the ads that run on its platform.
During a call with investors, Zuckerberg stressed how seriously Facebook was taking the findings about Russia’s activity on the platform. “What they did is wrong and I’m not going to stand for it,” he said, noting that Facebook would double its workforce devoted to security from 10,000 to 20,000 this year. (Later, Facebook clarified that those employees wouldn’t always be full-time staff.)
Zuckerberg also noted that video for the Watch platform will be an investment area for Facebook heading into 2018. The exec stressed that Facebook is looking to differentiate itself from other online video providers by focusing on content that encourages its viewers to interact with each other while they are watching. He explained by noting that while Facebook will continue to invest “heavily” in video for Watch, “we’re going to invest as much in making sure we build out the community features around that.”
While Zuckerberg sees a future in which most of Facebook Watch video is supported by advertising, he also acknowledged that it won’t always make sense. “Not all kinds of content can be supported by ads, no matter how effective we make that,” he said. But Zuckerberg also pointed to the video ecosystem that built up around YouTube, saying, “as we do better and better for the monetization that will support people with higher production costs.”
Facebook shares closed the day up more than 1 percent, or $2.60, to $182.66.
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