Facebook Defies Critics – and Russian Ads – With 49-Percent Growth in Q3

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MENLO PARK, Calif. – Facebook reports $10.14 billion in advertising revenue in the third quarter – a 49-percent jump – as its top attorney weathers harsh criticism from Congress over the Russian-ad buying scandal.

Facebook reports it now has 6 million active advertisers, up from 5 million in April, with mobile revenue now making up 88 percent of total ad revenue.

Total revenue was also up by 47 percent year-over-year to $10.33 billion. Total users also grew, with daily active users increasing 16 percent year-over-year in September to an average of 1.37 billion.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that all the growth doesn’t matter “if our services are used in ways that don’t bring people closer together.”

He added that Facebook’s spend on security will impact profitability. “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits,” he said. “I’m dead serious about this.”

The company also revealed there are more fake accounts on the platform than previously disclosed. Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch told lawmakers last week that about 2 percent of all accounts are fake. That translates to roughly 400,000 accounts.

Facebook also said that 16 million users on Facebook-owned Instagram might have seen Russian-bought ads since October 2016; and at least 126 million users saw “fake news” – a total far higher than the 10 million it disclosed just a few weeks ago.

Last week, lawmakers hammered Stretch and attorneys from Google and Twitter on security issues related to the Russian ad scandal.

When asked if they support a bipartisan bill introduced last month to require disclosure of who buys political ads and who they target, the attorneys said they are willing to work with lawmakers on further transparency.

Some analysts had predicted Facebook’s numbers might slow amid the Russian ad controversy. Brian Wieser, senior research analyst for Pivotal Research Group, has said Facebook may soon hit a wall with its ad business because of overall slow growth in the ad industry and potential regulatory oversight.

Still, analysts note that the company’s inability to cure its troll problem will ultimately cost it more in profits than any short-term security investment.

“Longer term, they will need to ensure the [troll-related] PR crisis doesn’t turn into a decline in user growth, or worse, that they start to lose members who don’t trust the platform,” Jordan Cohen, CMO of digital marketing firm Fluent, said.

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