Facebook Gets More Active Users During COVID-19 Outbreak, But Fewer Revenues

191/5000 Facebook announced that its messaging services and group calls have reached unprecedented spikes these days. However, its business has also been affected by COVID-19.

In recent days, after the health crises that are experienced in the world due to the COVID-19 outbreak, several Facebook services have seen an unprecedented increase.

VP of analytics Alex Schultz and Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering for the company, noted that courier services increased by up to 50% in countries most affected by the coronavirus.

Voice and video calls from products like Messenger and WhatsApp are the ones that have shown the most significant increase these days. People are using them twice as long as before.

The most impressive numbers come from Italy, a country that had to take extreme measures to contain the virus and whose health services have been overtaken by the epidemic. In this country, people have spent 70% more time on Facebook than in the previous month, while group call time increased ten times more. In just a week, Instagram and Facebook views also increased.

More Demand, Fewer revenues

In times past, these numbers would have impressed investors. However, the exponential growth in the use of the social network has not translated into higher revenues for the company.

The main increase in traffic in the messaging services and the news feed are people who want to know how their family and friends are doing. The last interest these people have is to click on the ads. At the same time, fewer and fewer companies are interested in advertising online, especially in countries that took the most aggressive measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Also, many of the services that have seen a spike this month are not monetized by Facebook. In this context, the company now faces a challenge: maintaining the stability of its services at a time when people seek to be in contact with others continually.

Although Facebook has developed an infrastructure that allows it to respond to these traffic spikes, such as massive events like the Olympics, or holidays like New Year’s Eve, these spikes are infrequent, and the company has plenty of time to prepare ahead of time. However, the current situation is atypical. Facebook executives commented:

The growth in usage by COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new usage records almost every day.

The company’s responsiveness has also been limited. Most of the social network employees are working from home, which makes it more difficult for Facebook to maintain the stability of its service with more and more users connected at the same time.

According to Schultz and Parikh, Facebook is currently prioritizing functions such as the COVID-19 Information Center and health alerts from the World Health Organization, which operate through WhatsApp, while working so that the rest of their applications do not present problems.

To make the service more efficient, Facebook is monitoring current usage patterns and adding capacity to their systems when necessary, which has led to sacrificing the quality of some products, as has happened with videos. According to the company, they reduced the bit rates of Facebook and Instagram videos in the regions with a more considerable increase in the use of these services, while conducting tests to ensure they can respond in the shortest possible time to any problem. That arises in your services.

Finally, the executives commented:

As this global public health crisis progresses and more people become physically separated from their communities, we hope that you continue to trust our services to stay connected and that this makes it easier for you to stay home.

Facebook Takes Aggressive Action To Combat Misinformation

The producers of fake news have not rested in the face of this emergency, and that situation has posed more significant challenges for the world’s leading social network.

Kang-Xing Jin, head of health at the company, mentioned some steps they have taken since the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a public emergency. This is a summary of the work the company is taking.

Accurate information to all

  • Facebook launched the Coronavirus Information Center
  • The network provides people with access to reliable information and useful resources
  • Providing reliable information and support to health authorities Connecting people with reliable health information on Instagram
  • Support for data verifiers
  • Tools to inform and care for people on Instagram

Fight against disinformation and harmful content

  • Facebook has implemented measures to prevent misinformation about COVID-19 in all its applications
  •     The company limits the spread of disinformation and harmful content about the virus
  •     Facebook has banned ads on mouth covers
  •     Banning ads trying to capitalize on this public health emergency
  •     Facebook has sought to keep the community informed on Instagram
  •     The company has prohibited ads for hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and test kits.

Support for international health experts and response efforts

  • The company offered $ 20 million in donations to aid the response efforts to COVID-19.
  • Mark Zuckerberg announced additional support for global health organizations
  • Facebook has provided data tools for its partners
  • Facebook collaborates with the technology industry in response efforts to COVID-19

Assistance to local governments, communities, and businesses

  • $ 100 million grant and small business resource center
  •     Maintaining the safety of our people and platform
  •     Free workplace for government agencies and emergency services
  •     WhatsApp: Information Center and donation to IFCN
  •     Minimizing the impact for businesses and partners on our platform
  •     Free messaging services for government health organizations
  •     Keep services stable

The main objective of these measures is to protect people and keep them informed about the pandemic that is already present in most countries of the world.

How Facebook Fights Misinformation

Nick Clegg, vice president of Global Affairs and Communications, elaborated on some steps Facebook has taken to combat the fake news circulating on the social network these days and allow people to access reliable information.

On Facebook and Instagram, the company featured news stories in the News Feed with information from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

The COVID-19 Information Center is also available in several countries, which will shortly be accessible to everyone, according to the Facebook executive.

According to the company’s data, more than a billion people were directed to information that came from the health authorities. One in ten of these people entered this content to obtain more information.

On WhatsApp, users can subscribe to the WHO Health Alert, which offers a daily report on the number of cases with coronavirus reported in the world. Also, the company has been close to health authorities in the United Kingdom, India, Singapore, Israel, and South Africa to offer health updates.

Facebook also donated a million dollars to the International Data Verification Network to expand data verification on WhatsApp, making it easier for people to verify rumors circulating online.

Magic Recipes And False Posts Are Removed

The Facebook data verification team has also been working to remove the false information present on the social network about COVID-19, such as inaccurate information about cures and treatments, in addition to the availability of essential services or information about the severity of the outbreak.

Facebook removes content based on guidelines from the WHO and other health authorities.

If the information does not translate into physical harm, such as conspiracy theories, Facebook works with data verifiers to discredit rumors, reduce the distribution of information and label the content as false, in addition to warning those who distribute the material in the social network.

In WhatsApp and Messenger, the social network is using machine learning to identify and block accounts that send information in bulk. In Messenger, the social network also plans to impose limits to control the number of times someone can forward a message and, in this way, limit its viralization.

Social network executives said they would work with health professionals to ensure that accurate and reliable information is available to people these days.