San Francisco (AFP)

Facebook generated $ 9.2 billion in net profits in the third quarter, 17% more than a year ago, rare good news for the Californian group, plunged into one of its worst scandals.

The platform has been accused by a whistleblower, NGOs and many authorities of prioritizing profits over the safety and health of users.

"We are seeing a coordinated effort to selectively use internal documents to paint a false image of our business," boss Mark Zuckerberg said on an analyst conference call Monday.

From July to September, Facebook posted sales of $ 29 billion over the period, slightly below investors' expectations, who expected another $ 500 million.

Its title still took nearly 4% during electronic trading after the stock market.

Both networks (with Instagram) and messaging (WhatsApp and Messenger) are now visited by 2.8 billion people every day (11% more than a year ago) and by 3.58 billion users in less once a month (+ 12%).

"Negative press deluge"

What reassure Wall Street, which looks above all if the platforms continue to attract the public, and therefore the advertisers.

Facebook holds 23.7% of the global digital advertising market in 2021, according to eMarketer, just behind its neighbor Google, number one in the sector with 28.6% of the pie.

The firm "is facing its worst deluge of negative press, and it will continue," noted Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer analyst.

But for now, her earnings "look as good as expected," she added.

For more than a month, American newspapers have been reporting articles based on the "Facebook papers", thousands of internal documents submitted to the SEC, the stock exchange authority, by Frances Haugen, a whistleblower and former engineer of the group Californian.

As a common thread of the controversies: the social media giant knew the dangers - toxic content on Instagram for teenagers, disinformation on Facebook that harms democracy, etc. - but chose, in part, to ignore them, for the sake of preserving its profits.

This weekend, American dailies shone the spotlight on Facebook's role in the polarization of societies.

According to researchers employed by the firm, American and Indian users, with a priori moderate political views, are overexposed to extremist or conspiratorial content.

At issue: algorithms seeking to maximize the attention of consumers, an essential engine of the group's growth.

To reassure

Faced with this new wave of criticism, Facebook is defending itself by recalling its significant investments to clean up its platforms, fight against deceptive, hateful and problematic content and support the democratic process, including in languages ​​other than English.

"The reality is that social networks are not the main culprits of these problems and cannot fix them on their own," insisted Mark Zuckerberg.

He also tried to reassure investors about the group's main financial concern at the moment: the latest update to the iPhone operating system, which gives users more control over their confidential data and makes it harder for social networks to measure efficiency.

Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, posted disappointing results last week because of the change, which caused its share to dip and Facebook's share also down.

"We believe that we will be able to move forward despite these headwinds, thanks to the investments we are making today," said Mark Zuckerberg.

© 2021 AFP