In a somewhat unbelievable feat considering Facebook’s absolute shitshow of a year in 2018, the social media company—freshly off of a new scandal involving a teen-targeting “research” app—reported record profit in its Wednesday earnings call.
CNBC reported that Facebook surpassed estimates by analysts on earnings and revenue, with the company reporting a net income of $6.88 billion—up from $4.27 billion the year before—shaking out to $2.38 per share (and over estimates of $2.19). The company saw its revenue increase 30 percent to $16.91 billion, which beat out analyst estimates of $16.39 billion. Additionally, monthly and daily active user metrics continue to grow, with daily users hitting 1.5 billion and monthly users reaching 2.3 billion.
As far as user growth, the figures reported by the company pretty much fall in line with expectations by analysts. But they also follow what was an exceptionally tumultuous year for the company—one in which public relations problems were a near-weekly occurrence.
In fact, this last week alone was a clusterfuck for Facebook. The company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg published an embarrassing column in the Wall Street Journal that insinuated users don’t trust Facebook because they don’t understand it. Then TechCrunch reported that Facebook has been targeting teenagers for a “Facebook Research” VPN that preys on their mobile and web browsing data. That’s in addition to the revelation last week that Facebook was for years wittingly letting kids make charges to their parents’ credit cards without their knowledge.
There is, of course, all of the other stuff that tainted Facebook’s reputation last year. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data fiasco happened in 2018, as did allegations of its complicity in the Myanmar genocide, as did many, many data-swapping and privacy scandals that seemingly wouldn’t quit. And don’t forget about the election interference that Zuckerberg has claimed is impossible to do away with completely.
How does Facebook survive a year like this? Who the fuck knows! Just kidding—it’s because it holds hostage the data of billions of users who willfully fork over their most personal information, including their age, gender, religious and political affiliations, interests, contacts, location, shopping habits, etc., which the company then uses to serve them ads specifically tailored to their perceived interests. Advertisers will pay exorbitant amounts of money to reach their demographics, and Facebook holds a monopoly on that information.
It’s as Zuckerberg himself wrote in his op-ed last week: “In an ordinary transaction, you pay a company for a product or service they provide. Here you get our services for free—and we work separately with advertisers to show you relevant ads.” It may not be selling your data, but it’s profiting off it to the tune of billions.
Maybe this is the year Facebook will get to work on all of the problems it’s been promising to fix. But then again, why would it when the company’s managed to do so well by being so awful?