Facebook’s forecast for the future looks suddenly bleakJuly 26, 2018
On Tuesday, for the first time in three years, Facebook failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations for revenue and user growth. The company’s user base of 185 million users in the United States and Canada remained flat over the last quarter, and added just 22 million users worldwide — the lowest number of additions since at least 2011. The stock declined more than 20 percent.
On one hand, you couldn’t call the news a complete surprise. As Mike Isaac noted, Facebook has warned for months that the changes it was making to the News Feed would reduce its growth. And Mark Zuckerberg told analysts that the company’s efforts to fix its platform would have a meaningful, and negative, effect on revenue.
There’s also the limit of the human population to consider. There are about 3 billion people who have access to Facebook, and Facebook reaches 2.23 billion of them. Facebook has a variety of plans to expand internet access, but it has been slow going, and it recently killed a high-profile plan to build internet delivery drones.
Still, the news seemed to catch investors off guard. Facebook’s chief financial officer, David Wehner, warned that the bad news would continue indefinitely. “Our total revenue growth rates will continue to decelerate in the second half of 2018, and we expect our revenue growth rates to decline by high single-digit percentages from prior quarters sequentially in both Q3 and Q4,” he said on a conference call.
Shira Ovide, writing in Bloomberg, put it best:
If what the company predicts comes to pass, the internet’s best combination of fast revenue growth and plump profit margins is dead. All at once, it seemed, reality finally caught up to Facebook.
Was Tuesday, in fact, the day when almost two years of nonstop negative headlines began to show up in Facebook’s core business? The results announced Wednesday marked the first full quarter since the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. It also saw the rollout of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which drove away 1 million users, Zuckerberg told analysts.
Whatever the cause, it appears that Facebook may have peaked in North America. And while efforts to improve the platform will surely continue, the company has a full slate of negative headlines to anticipate. The Justice Department and FBI are both investigating Facebook over Cambridge Analytica. The Security and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission are conducting investigations of their own.
Meanwhile, the debate over how Facebook should handle misinformation, which led Zuckerberg to defend the speech rights of Holocaust deniers last week, is still raging. No one of these things is likely to dislodge Facebook from its place at the center of online communication. But it’s fair to say that the cumulative effect so far has been greater than expected.
”Is Facebook invincible?“ asked Kurt Wagner, my colleague at Recode, in his earnings preview Tuesday. Wednesday’s results made it evident that the answer is no.
I broke the news that Alex Jones’ YouTube channel has a new strike against it after the company removed four videos from the site that violated its community standards:
Two videos contained hate speech against Muslims, and a third contained hate speech against transgender people, sources said. A fourth showed Jones mocking a child who was pushed to the ground by an adult man, under the headline “How to prevent liberalism.” All four of the videos are currently posted on Infowars.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is planning on holding two hearings on social media as part of its Russia investigation. Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey are expected to attend, and maybe Sundar Pichai as well, report Emma Loop and Ryan Mac.
Facebook took down a network of pages and accounts used by a right-wing Brazilian activist group, the company said, after identifying many of its accounts as fake.
Facebook’s $30 million “innovation hub” in China was a viable enterprise for all of a day, Paul Mozur reports.
Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner, ask Facebook to do more to remove conspiracy content from the platform. Their specific requests:
– Treat victims of mass shootings and other tragedies as a protected group, such that attacks on them are specifically against Facebook policy.
– Provide affected people with access to Facebook staff who will remove hateful and harassing posts against victims immediately.
Here’s the transcript of yesterday’s conference call with reporters about election integrity. Elsewhere, Josh Constine follows up with some unanswered questions.
Trump actually did worse than previous Republican candidates among internet users and people who got campaign news online, Will Oremus reports.
This doesn’t mean the internet was irrelevant to the 2016 campaign, Shapiro told me. “The question is not whether the internet is having any impact on politics—it surely is—but whether it deserves the top billing it often gets in discussions about the election,” he said.
Kate Lamb reports on the “buzzer teams” hired by the Indonesian government to churn up racial divisions:
For several months in 2017 Alex, whose name has been changed, alleges he was one of more than 20 people inside a secretive cyber army that pumped out messages from fake social media accounts to support then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as “Ahok”, as he fought for re-election.
“They told us you should have five Facebook accounts, five Twitter accounts and one Instagram,” he told the Guardian. “And they told us to keep it secret. They said it was ‘war time’ and we had to guard the battleground and not tell anyone about where we worked.”
This is a false headline, and a misleading story, about what was essentially a bug that prevented the names from some Republican leaders from showing up in the drop-down search field. Head of product Kayvon Beykpour sought to clarify the situation later in the day in a Twitter thread. But basically no, Twitter isn’t “shadow banning” anyone although now there will probably be a sham Congressional hearing about it.
Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch is leaving at the end of the year. He joined Facebook in 2010.
Forgot to include this in yesterday’s edition: BuzzFeed got a hold of Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos’s note from the spring in which he said he would leave. It basically tracks with what he was tweeting around the time, which is that he would leave in August. It’s almost August, though — is there a plan?
Twitter belatedly responds to the very real issue of people changing their display names to trick people into sending them cryptocurrency, my colleague Nick Statt reports:
Twitter has implemented a new method for combating cryptocurrency scammers: it now automatically locks unverified accounts that change their display name to Elon Musk. If you have a non-verified account that is not associated with a phone number, changing your display name to that of the SpaceX and Tesla CEO will result in an immediate lock out. Twitter will then ask you to pass a CAPTCHA test, as well as provide a phone number, to regain access.
Eddie Kim takes us inside the exciting world of committing minor crimes for YouTube views.
Not enough publishers want to make shows for Snapchat Discover, so Snap is filling in the corners with syndicated crap.
I’m sure this will be useful to someone, but I’m not quite sure who, part one:
YouTube is expanding its virtual reality app to support Samsung’s Gear VR devices, and it’s also adding a new feature that lets users watch a video together and chat. If you own a Gear VR device, you’ll be able to download the app from the Oculus Store beginning this week, Google announced today in a blog post.
I’m sure this will be useful to someone, but I’m not quite sure who, part two.
Farhad Manjoo says that calls for more aggressive content moderation will only serve to make Facebook more powerful — without making it any more accountable:
Daniel D’Addario says the age of celebrity tweeting could be coming to an end:
The solution, for everyone involved and everyone not yet involved, seems to be scaling back on social media. The rewards of openness–access that runs both ways between talent and fans, a window into the creative process–can only exist in a marketplace in which context is understood and appreciated. That Twitter strips away context, that it rips jokes and statements out of time and presents them as individual links that make a botched witticism seem as potent and nasty as a destructive piece of politicized hate, is part of its value proposition. And it’s trained all of us, but especially power users on the right, to see a flattened world, where sensibility and meaning matter less than how offended one can purport to be. If more and more creators walk away from Twitter and similar platforms, it’ll be a potent demonstration of how the promise of the social web — openness and accessibility — cannot jibe with the artist’s need to work things out.
And finally …
In its own delightful way, this majestic Taffy Brodesser-Akner profile of Gwyneth Paltrow’s empire reveals GOOP as the Infowars of the wellness set. Highly recommended:
G.P. didn’t understand the problem. “We’re never making statements,” she said. Meaning, they’re never asserting anything like a fact. They’re just asking unconventional sources some interesting questions. (Loehnen told me, “We’re just asking questions.”) But what is “making a statement”? Some would argue — her former partners at Condé Nast, for sure — that it is giving an unfiltered platform to quackery or witchery. O.K., O.K., but what is quackery? What is witchery? Is it claims that have been observed but not the subject of double-blind, peer-reviewed studies? Yes? Right. O.K., G.P. would say, then what is science, and is it all-encompassing and altruistic and without error and always acting in the interests of humanity?
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