Among the tech platforms, no company, perhaps save Twitter, has had as contentious of a year as Facebook. The social media giant spent the last three months dealing with a notable ad boycott and one of the messiest and most complicated election cycles in US political history. Yet, Facebook’s handling of its many issues around political advertising, moderation, and election interference have had seemingly no effect on its bottom line, as the company just reported an astonishing quarter of revenue and user growth.
The company reported a 22 percent year-over-year increase in revenue to $21.2 billion, as well as a 12 percent increase in profit to $8 billion. Its user growth is also still in the double digits, with 12 percent more people checking the main Facebook app every day for a total of 1.82 billion in September and an average of 2.7 billion people checking it every month as of September 30th. When counting Facebook’s entire family of apps — including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp — more than 2.5 billion check a Facebook product every day while 3.21 billion check every month.
Facebook’s quarterly financial performance reflects an uncomfortable reality about the technology industry: no matter how controversial or rife with political conflict, companies like Facebook — as well as its primary digital ad competitor, Google — are simply so large and consequential to the markets they operate in for anything to have a meaningful effect on their money-making potential.
Facebook is the lifeblood of small businesses in the US and around the world, and advertising spend doesn’t stop just because the company is tussling with Republicans over concerns of bias and censorship or Democrats over fears that it’s a tool for undermining democracy and spreading hate.
One sore spot for Facebook is US growth, which declined this past quarter from 198 million daily active users to 196 million (and from 256 million to 255 million monthly users). Far and away the company’s most important market is the Asia-Pacific region, which recorded a jump of nearly 100 million users that log in to the main Facebook app every day. That indicates that the company’s US market has resumed its slow decline after an initial bump in domestic usage earlier this year largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.