Thanks to Russia, Facebook will spend so much on security its profitability will take a hit

Facebook says it will double the number of people working on safety and security from 10,000 today to 20,000 by the end of 2018. 

The company revealed the hiring expansion to legislators during this week’s hearings focussed on how Russia used divisive content and ads on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to influence the 2016 presidential election. 

Facebook offered a more details about its security plans at its earnings update on Wednesday, when it reported third quarter ad revenues of $10.14 billion, up 49 percent year on year, capped off by a 79 percent rise in profits to $4.7bn.

Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch, along with legal heads from Google and Twitter, were grilled by legislators who are weighing up whether the online ad industry needs to be regulated. One such proposal is the Honest Ads Act that would require social networks provide the same level of transparency about political advertising as TV and radio.   

Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos revealed in September that Kremlin-linked Russian firm, Internet Research Agency (IRA), spent $100,000 on Facebook ads between June 2015 to May 2017. The New York Times published a few samples the ads the firm paid for in rubles. Most of the samples are designed to fuel divisions. Facebook this week revealed that IRA had created 80,000 posts during the two years, which directly reached 29 million people, and may have been seen by 126 million users via likes and shares.  

On a call with analysts on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said its profitability will be affected by the level of spending on security it’s about to commence. 

“I've directed our teams to invest so much in security on top of the other investments we're making that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward, and I wanted our investors to hear that directly from me,” said Zuckerberg, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.  

Facebook currently has 23,000 employees, but the additional 10,000 security and safety employees won’t necessarily equate to 33,000 employees as the figure includes staff and partners, Facebook’s CFO Dave Wehner clarified. 

The additional staff will be brought on to improve enforcement of community standards and review ads, said Zuckerberg. The company is also building AI to detect “bad content and bad actors”. 

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