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Facebook profits rise amid scandal

October 26, 2021

The tech giant has posted a 17% increase from the previous quarter. Recent reports, citing leaked internal documents, said Facebook prioritizes profit over users' safety.

Facebook logo under a magnifying glass
Facebook has been battling a fresh crisis amid allegations that the company knew of its potential harmImage: JB Le Quere/Maxppp/picture alliance

Facebook recorded a quarterly profit of over $9 billion (€7.75 billion), the company announced on Monday.

The profits come amid increasing criticism of the company as new internal data, leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen, show that Facebook prioritized its own growth over public safety concerns.

The allegations range from CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally signing off on a company plan to censor government critics in Vietnam at the request of the country's communist ruling party, to being conspicuous to shareholders about a decline in the number of teenagers using the app.

Zuckerberg maintained that the allegations were selective and painted the company in poor light.

"Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company," Zuckerberg said in an earnings call. 

The allegations haven't dampened Facebook's earnings. Results show that profit grew to $9.2 billion, marking a 17% increase from the previous quarter. The number of users jumped to 2.91 billion.

Facebook executives said the company would have likely done even better if Apple hadn't updated its operating system that blocks advertisers from propelling ads at users without their permission.

"Overall, if it wasn't for Apple's iOS 14 changes, we would have seen positive quarter over quarter revenue growth," Facebook chief operating officer Sherly Sandberg said, according to AFP news agency.

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Haugen testifies before UK lawmakers

Former Facebook product developer turned whistleblower Haugen testified before a British parliamentary committee on Monday. The committee is examining draft legislation intended to crack down on harmful online content.

"Facebook has been unwilling to accept even little slivers of profit being sacrificed for safety, and that's not acceptable," Haugen told lawmakers.

She added that Facebook's algorithms pushed people to see content at political extremes. "So someone center left, they'll be pushed to radical left, someone center right will be pushed to radical right."  

US outlets publish damaging reports

US media reported, citing Facebook's internal documents, that the company was aware that its platform was being used to buy and sell human beings by traffickers in black markets. The reports said the company didn't move to take action until a BBC report in 2019 revealed some of the human rights abuses on the platform.

Other reports, also based on internal data leaked by Haugen, said Facebook censored government critics in Vietnam, and removed several hundreds of posts between July and December 2020 ahead of the Communist Party's congress in January 2021.

rm/fb (Reuters, AP)