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Zuckerberg reveals Facebook’s R74bn security war chest

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Amid increased scrutiny of its operations, Facebook is set to spend more than $5 billion (R74 billion) on safety and security this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed yesterday during a third quarter (Q3) earnings call with analysts.

Facebook, which reported higher profit for the latest quarter, has long been criticised for its lack of user safety. It faced renewed scrutiny in recent weeks after an ex-employee leaked a stockpile of documents that buttressed claims the company rated financial success over safety and security.

Yesterday, Zuckerberg addressed the matter with analysts, denying the allegations and revealing Facebook is investing billions in safety and security.

“Good faith criticism helps us get better. But my view is that what we're seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” he said.

“We have made massive investments in safety and security, with more than 40 000 people, and we are on track to spend more than $5 billion on safety and security in 2021. I believe that's more than any other tech company, even adjusted for scale.”

Zuckerberg told the analysts that Facebook had set the standard for transparency with its quarterly enforcement reports and tools like its political ads archive.

“We established a new model for independent academic researchers to safely access data. We pioneered the oversight board as a model of self-regulation. And as a result, we believe our systems are the most effective at reducing harmful content across the industry.”

CFO David Wehner said the social media company had “delivered solid results in the third quarter in the face of a challenging mobile platform landscape and an evolving macro-economic environment”.

In the quarter, the company’s net income grew 17% to $9.19 billion. Total revenue was $29 billion, up 35% year-over-year, while ad revenue was $28.3 billion, up 33% or 32% on a constant currency basis.

Facebook’s capital expenditure, including finance leases, was $4.5 billion, driven by investments in data centres, servers, network infrastructure and office facilities.

Addressing Facebook’s community metrics, Wehner said: “We estimate that approximately 2.8 billion people used at least one of our services on a daily basis in September, and that approximately 3.6 billion people used at least one on a monthly basis.”

In Q3, Facebook’s daily active users were 1.93 billion on average for September 2021, an increase of 6% year-over-year, while monthly active users were 2.91 billion as of 30 September 2021, also an increase of 6% year-over-year.

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