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Facebook Earnings Jump as Zuckerberg Defends Political Ads

Despite a continued barrage of scrutiny from the media and Capitol Hill, Facebook’s business continues to hum along nicely.

For the third quarter, Facebook reported a 19% yearly jump in net income to $6.09 billion and a 29% increase in revenue to $17.65 billion. Daily users of Facebook’s main service grew 9% to 1.62 billion globally from the year-ago period, with a total of about 2.2 billion people using at least one of its apps—Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp—every day.

The results, which narrowly beat the average financial estimates of analysts, sent Facebook’s shares surging roughly 4% in after-hours trading. 

On a call with investors that took place shortly after Twitter announced it will no longer accept political ads, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said political advertising on Facebook will account for less than half a percent of its revenue in 2020, but gave no indication the company will also ban political ads. Zuckerberg acknowledged recent antitrust investigations into the company’s business practices by saying  he expects a “lot of scrutiny” of Facebook’s 2012 purchase of Instagram.

For the fourth quarter, CFO Dave Wehner cautioned that yearly revenue growth will likely decline by a “mid to high” single-digit percentage, largely due to product changes that have made it harder for Facebook to target ads. Apple and Google have also recently introduced privacy-enhancing updates to their mobile software that could hinder Facebook’s targeting abilities, he said.

Facebook also announced that its lead independent board director and CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, was resigning for “personal reasons.” While Facebook’s board has seen little turnover over the years, there has been a noticeable uptick in board room changes throughout 2019 with the departures of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Erskine Bowles.

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