Facebook said Wednesday quarterly profit climbed to USD 6.9 billion as its ranks of users continued to grow despite scandals that have dented the leading social network's image. Revenue soared 30 per cent from a year ago to USD 16.9 billion while the number of people using it monthly rose nine percent to 2.32 billion, Facebook said in its fourth quarter update. Net profit for Facebook, which makes money from online advertising, was up a strong 61 per cent from the same period last year.
"Our community and business continue to grow," co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings release. Facebook shares jumped 7.7 per cent to USD 161.99 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings.
Costs at the California-based internet colossus rocketed 62 per cent in the quarter as it continued to spend heavily in people and artificial intelligence to guard against manipulation, misinformation, and mis-use of people's data. The number of employees as of December 31 was 35,587, an increase of 42 per cent year-over-year.
"We've fundamentally changed how we run our company to focus on the biggest social issues, and we're investing more to build new and inspiring ways for people to connect," Zuckerberg said. The latest report showed Facebook increased its user base both in the United States and Europe, where the social network has faced challenges over data protection scandals.
Industry tracker eMarketer expects Facebook's share of the global digital ad market to grow this year. The social network claims 20.5 per cent of an overall USD 327.28 billion spent. But analysts say the trust issue is crucial for Facebook if it wants to move forward on its mission to connect the world.
Meanwhile, Apple has said that Facebook can no longer distribute an app that paid users, including teenagers, to extensively track their phone and web use. The tech blog TechCrunch reports that Facebook paid about $20 a month. While Facebook says this was done with permission, the company has a history of defining "permission" loosely and obscuring what data it collects.
Facebook says fewer than 5 percent of the app's users were teens and they had parental permission. Nonetheless, the revelation is yet another blemish on Facebook's track record on privacy and could invite further regulatory scrutiny. According to TechCrunch, Facebook sidestepped Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy. Apple says Facebook was using a distribution mechanism meant for company employees, not outsiders, so Apple has revoked that capability.