Facebook Sees 22% Ad Revenue Growth; Mark Zuckerberg Talks About Potential Changes To Section 230

UPDATE, 4:15 PM PT: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a glimpse of what changes he envisions for Section 230, the law that gives tech platforms legal immunity for the way that they moderate their content.

In a call with analysts to discuss second quarter earnings, Zuckerberg said that an approach that seems to have worked in other countries, like France, is “one that focuses on creating a transparent process where companies have to report how they are doing moderation, reporting on how much harmful content in different categories is visible, the portion of the content on the service, and what percent of it our content moderation systems can get to before people need to report it.”

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“I think a system like that, that basically requires companies to meet certain thresholds or show improvement, basically aligns incentives in the right way,” he said.

Lawmakers in both parties have targeted Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, and in his appearance before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said that he supports a new look at the law. The tech industry as a whole have treated Section 230 as essential for their dramatic growth over the past decade.

Zuckerberg also addressed next week’s election, outlining a series of steps Facebook has taken to curb potential voter suppression and other misinformation about the electoral process. But he also said that he was worried that “with a nation so divided,” “there is a risk of civil unrest in the country” following the election.

PREVIOUSLY, 1:25 PM PT: Facebook’s ad revenue rose 22% in the third quarter, as it beat analyst expectations of earnings growth.

The company on Thursday reported net income of $7.8 billion in the three months ended September 30, a rise of 29% from the same period a year earlier. That translated into $2.71 per share, beating the estimate of $1.91 per share.

Ad revenue rose to $21.2 billion, from $17.4 billion a year earlier. Total revenue reached $21.5 billion, up 22%. The growth in ad revenue came despite an ad boycott campaign earlier in July.

“We had a strong quarter as people and businesses continue to rely on our services to stay connected and create economic opportunity during these tough times,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Chief financial officer David Wehner said in a note that daily active users and monthly active users declined slightly in the U.S. and Canada from levels in the second quarter. He said that the levels earlier in the year were elevated due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“In the fourth quarter of 2020, we expect this trend to continue and that the number of DAUs and MAUs in the U.S. & Canada will be flat or slightly down compared to the third quarter of 2020,” Wehner said. He said that they expect a higher ad-growth rate in the fourth quarter because of advertiser demand during the holiday season.

Facebook was up almost 5% in trading Thursday, but the earnings were released after the markets closed.