Facebook said on Monday that revenue rose 35 percent to $29 billion in the three months ending in September compared with the same period last year, while profit rose 17 percent to $9.2 billion, a sign of the social network’s financial strength as it faces a public relations crisis over troubling disclosures made by a former employee.
Advertising revenue, which is responsible for the vast majority of Facebook’s income, rose 33 percent to $28.3 billion. “Other” revenue, which consists largely of sales of Facebook’s virtual-reality Oculus hardware, rose 195 percent to $734 million.
Some 3.6 billion people now use one of Facebook’s apps every month, up 12 percent from a year earlier.
“We made good progress this quarter and our community continues to grow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive. “I’m excited about our road map, especially around creators, commerce and helping to build the metaverse” — a vision of the future espoused by technologists in which disparate parts of the digital world will merge with portions of the offline world. Mr. Zuckerberg has said he hopes for Facebook to be known as a “metaverse company” in the years ahead.
The results were a continuation of the company’s strong financial performance during the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed people indoors toward their computers and other devices.
In recent weeks, though, Facebook has faced intensifying political pressure. Frances Haugen, a former employee who became a whistle-blower, has shared thousands of pages of internal documents and has said that the company chose “profits over people.” The disclosures by Ms. Haugen, first publicized in The Wall Street Journal, ignited a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers, regulators and the public. Lawmakers have focused largely on reports showing how Facebook knew Instagram was worsening body image issues among teenagers, among other issues.
On Monday, more than a dozen news organizations, including The New York Times, published articles based on the Facebook Papers, a cache of documents Ms. Haugen took before she left the company. A few hours later, she testified before British lawmakers, saying that the company was unwilling to stop the harmful aspects of its products because doing so could jeopardize profits and growth.
Executives have pushed back vociferously on the coverage. “My view on what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to create a false picture about our company,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a call with investors on Monday.
“Any honest account should be clear that these issues aren’t just about social media,” he added. “That means that whatever Facebook does, we’re never going to solve them alone.”
Facebook appears to be setting itself up for long-term, expensive growth plans. The company said it would break out its Facebook Reality Labs segment into a different reporting unit on its quarterly earnings statements. That segment will be separate from the rest of the company’s so-called “Family of Apps” — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook proper.
A tech giant in trouble. The leak of internal documents by a former Facebook employee has provided an intimate look at the operations of the secretive social media company and renewed calls for better regulations of the company’s wide reach into the lives of its users.
How it began. In September, The Wall Street Journal published The Facebook Files, a series of reports based on leaked documents. The series exposed evidence that Facebook, which on Oct. 28 assumed the corporate name of Meta, knew Instagram, one of its products was worsening body-image issues among teenagers.
The whistle-blower. During an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Oct. 3, Frances Haugen, a Facebook product manager who left the company in May, revealed that she was responsible for the leak of those internal documents.
Ms. Haugen’s testimony in Congress. On Oct. 5, Ms. Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee, saying that Facebook was willing to use hateful and harmful content on its site to keep users coming back. Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, called her accusations untrue.
The Facebook Papers. Ms. Haugen also filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided the documents to Congress in redacted form. A congressional staff member then supplied the documents, known as the Facebook Papers, to several news organizations, including The New York Times.
New revelations. Documents from the Facebook Papers show the degree to which Facebook knew of extremist groups on its site trying to polarize American voters before the election. They also reveal that internal researchers had repeatedly determined how Facebook’s key features amplified toxic content on the platform.
Facebook Reality Labs, or F.R.L., is heavily investing in technologies like virtual and augmented reality. Mr. Zuckerberg’s long-term goal is that the department helps Facebook become a significant player and creator of the so-called metaverse. But now, the unit spends more than it makes — and will for some time.
“We are committed to bringing this long-term vision to life and we expect to increase our investments for the next several years,” the company said in its earnings statement Facebook expects F.R.L. to bring down its overall 2021 profit by close to $10 billion, but Mr. Zuckerberg said he expected the metaverse would bring a “massive creator economy” over the long term. The next few years, he noted, will be spent building out the infrastructure to support his vision.
The company is also retooling some of its advertising systems to deal with recent changes to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, which has limited the amount of information companies like Facebook can learn from iPhone owners. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the company was building a way to do advertising analysis with less information from users.
Shares of Facebook jumped 2.6 percent to $337.25 in after-hours trading.