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Facebook is Unscathed Despite Public Backlash

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 3rd 2021

The recent Capitol riots have sparked a lot of controversy and public interest in the social media stocks. Privacy and content sharing policies across platforms like Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) have become a matter of national interest. During the quarter, Facebook has had to take a strong stand on its political policy – a rare move by the company.

Facebook’s Financials

Facebook’s Q4 revenues grew 33% to $28.1 billion, ahead of the market’s estimates of $26.36 billion. Adjusted EPS was $3.88 and surpassed the market’s forecast of $3.24.

Advertising revenues grew 31% to $27.2 billion and other revenues grew 156% to $885 million.

Daily active user (DAU) numbers for the core Facebook app grew 11% over the year to 1.84 billion and monthly active users (MAU) grew 12% to 2.8 billion. The number of people active on any one of its family of products, which includes WhatsApp and Instagram, grew 14% to 3.3 billion people per month in the quarter. Daily active users on these applications came in at 2.6 billion.

Facebook’s VR Growth

Facebook continues to improve its product offerings. Last quarter, it launched Quest 2 and is on track to be the first mainstream virtual reality headset. The headset has been designed so that anyone could use it and get the most immersive experience. With people being stuck at home, Facebook expects the headset to be received very well in the market.

It is also seeing a growing ecosystem of developers that continue to build new experiences for the platform. Right now, Facebook is helping more than 60 Oculus developers generate revenues. Facebook did not comment on the actual revenues earned by these developers but did say that they were earning in the millions.

Besides the headset, Facebook is also working on augmented reality glasses as a part of its VR-focused future. It is still working on some of the foundational technology of the glasses and believes that its product launch is still a few years away. Its glasses from Ray-Ban are being built in partnership with Luxottica.

Facebook’s Political and Privacy Concerns

Facebook continues to crack down against violence and hate speech, and during the quarter, it took down groups that broke these rules. In addition to this, it also stopped recommending groups that had to do with civics and politics in the wake of the election. It continues to fine-tune its policies, but as of right now, it continues to plan to keep civics and political groups out of recommendations, with plans to expand the policy globally. Facebook has also reduced the amount of political content on News Feed. While these moves help remove these political groups from recommendations for users, it doesn’t disable people from engaging in political groups and discussions.

The recent Capitol riots have sparked a lot of concern regarding the influence that social media platforms like Facebook have on the population. Facebook had shied away from taking action on people and groups that promote extremist and fraudulent views. However, after the riots that were said to be instigated by former President Donald Trump, Facebook finally took his page down from its platform.

Users continued to express concerns about privacy issues on its service. During the quarter, it updated WhatsApp’s privacy policy and its terms of service. The initial notice to the users suggested that if they did not accept WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy, which would allow sharing of a lot more information with Facebook, they would not be able to use WhatsApp. The ultimatum resulted in a lot of user discontent and backlash and they migrated their accounts to alternate services like Signal and Telegram. Facebook had to go back on its proposal and now the update will not change the privacy of people’s messages, keeping them end-to-end encrypted. It will, however, host business messages, if the business chooses to. Facebook is pushing back the date of the update to allow people to understand what the update means.

Facebook needs to be regulated. However, the legislators don’t really know how to regulate the company or the industry. As such, they continue on with gangbuster financials.

Its stock is trading at $267.08 with a market capitalization of $760.56 billion. It had climbed to a 52-week high of $304.67 in August. It hit a 52-week low of $137.10 in March last year.

Disclosure: All investors should make their own assessments based on their own research, informed interpretations, and risk appetite. This article expresses my own opinions based on my own research of product-market fit, channel execution, and other factors. My primary interest is in product strategy. While this may have bearing on stock movements, my writings tend to focus on long-term implications. The information presented is illustrative and educational, but should not be regarded as a complete analysis nor recommendation to buy or sell the securities mentioned herein. I am not a registered investment adviser and I am not receiving compensation for this article. I am an investor in this company.

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