Facebook Profit Surges, Russian Scandal Does Not Make Impact

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Facebook Inc. came under heavy criticism on Capitol Hill Wednesday over a failure to prevent operatives from Russia from using its social media platform for meddling in the election, but its earnings report issued just a few hours later showed how insulated it continues to be from political risk.

The social media platform said its profit for the quarter soared by 79% and its revenues were almost 50% during the third quarter as money poured in from marketers into the advertising offerings on Facebook, whose power to influence and target users had been showcased by the scandal during last year’s election.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg condemned the attempts by Russia to influence the election last year through posts on Facebook and advertisements that were designed to create division, and repeated a pledge to ramp up their spending to confront the issue.

Zuckerberg said Facebook’s spending would involve 10,000 more people reviewing content on its site, though based on practice from the past many of those will be sub-contracted.

The spending will hit its profit, said Facebook, with it expected to increase between 45% and 60% in 2018.

The Facebook CEO said that what Russia did is wrong and Facebook will not stand for it.

The share price of Facebook stock, which touched a new all-time record earlier Wednesday of $182.90, rose initially in trading afterhours but fell later on talk about its higher spending. Share price in 2017 has increased nearly 60%.

The political upheaval in the U.S. over how social media including Google, Facebook and Twitter handle stories that are false news and political manipulation of services gathered new strength this week as hearings were held by three different congressional committees.

Zuckerberg was not present for the hearings, but Capitol Hill lawmakers threatened tougher regulation and fired tough questions at Colin Stretch the General Counsel for Facebook, criticizing the company heavily for reacting so slow and sharing the information so slowly to Congress.

The CEO told Wall Street analysts that legislation forcing disclosure of ads during elections would be very good if it were done right.

In a number of disclosures over a period of two months, the social media platform has said that Russians purchased a minimum of 3,000 political ads for the U.S. and published more than 80,000 posts on Facebook that more than 126 million Americans saw over a period of two years.

Russia has denied any meddling.