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Facebook Had a Great First Quarter, Believe It or Not

Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Despite being embroiled in countless controversies this year, Facebook has found itself still on an upward trajectory. The social-media giant announced gains in a quarterly report this afternoon, and the fact that Facebook shows no signs of slowing down, despite pummeling criticism from many different angles, helps illustrate just how much the company has managed to concentrate its power.

Facebook said that in March 2018 it had 1.45 billion daily active users, and 2.2 billion monthly active users, both of which represent a 13 percent increase year-over-year. All of this despite the near daily reports about Facebook’s mismanagement, lack of foresight, and overaggressive data-collection practices. It’s pretty remarkable what monopoly power can inoculate you from!

What really matters is that Facebook still works for the users that the company actually cares about: its advertisers. Advertising revenue rose 50 percent from the same time last year to $11.7 billion. The company had a net income of just under $5 billion this quarter.

How could Facebook succeed so much in the face of overwhelming criticism? For one thing, maybe that criticism isn’t being heard as far and wide as you (or I) might want to believe.

Facebook added 67 million monthly users last month, and most of that growth came from outside North America and Europe. Facebook is penetrating deep into other parts of the world, and into countries where it is basically able to become not just part of the internet but most of it. That’s both a danger (Facebook has reportedly fueled ethnic violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka) and a difficult problem to solve. How do you warn a population about Facebook when that population gets most of its news via Facebook?

Facebook Had a Great First Quarter, Believe It or Not