Thirty-seven per cent of people on earth use one of Facebook’s “family” of apps each month, according to data in the company’s latest financial results, which today revealed soaring revenue and hundreds of millions of new users.

In the December quarter, monthly active users for Facebook’s range of apps, including its namesake social platform, Instagram, and WhatsApp, hit 2.89 billion, a 9 per cent increase year-on-year.

Looking at daily active users brings the number down to 2.26 billion, still an 11 per cent year-on-year increase.

Facebook’s billions of users helped the company generate revenue of more than US$21 billion for the three months ending December 31 2019, almost all coming from advertising.

Facebook’s quarterly revenue. Source: the company.

In the calendar year, Facebook reported a net income of US$18.5 billion, a 16 per cent decrease on 2018, largely due to a US$5 billion fine from regulators for continued breaches of users’ privacy.

Election integrity

Following the Q4 2019 results, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg again defended the company’s decision to allow false political advertisements and said the company was well prepared for upcoming elections.

Zuckerberg said it was a “good quarter for our community and our business” on an investor call following the results today. He said the company will continue to focus on “social issues” in 2020, including election interference.

Ahead of this year’s US presidential election Facebook is facing renewed scrutiny for allowing false claims in political advertisements.

Twitter has removed all paid political advertising over disinformation fears while Google has reduced the targeting options for political groups on its platforms, leaving Facebook alone in its decision to effectively allow disinformation spread online.

1.66 billion people use the Facebook platform everyday, according to the latest results.

Discussing what he called “election integrity” Zuckerberg conceded “we were behind in 2016” but insisted Facebook has made significant progress since. The upcoming presidential election is “a top priority” and experience in other recent elections elsewhere would prove valuable for the US campaign.

“By any objective measure our efforts on election integrity have made a lot of progress,” he said.

Zuckerberg did caution that there were now more potential foreign state actors to be wary of beyond Russia, naming Iran and China. He also noted their goal may not necessarily be to influence an election result but to cast doubt over the legitimacy of a result.

“We may not even see specific attacks, but if there’s a big meme that there was widespread interference that has the same effect in terms of, kind of, sewing doubt about things.”

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