Amid reports that Facebook has deceived shareholders about a significant drop in teenagers and younger users, Mark Zuckerberg said the company is “reorganizing” to make “serving young people” a top priority. To achieve this, the company plans to make “significant changes” in its Facebook and Instagram apps and spend billions of dollars on building its vision for the “metaverse”.
Citing increased competition from TikTok and iMessage, Zuckerberg said that the company will do more to attract “young adult” users between the ages of 18 and 29, even if it is to the detriment of older users. Speaking during a conversation about the company’s earnings in the third quarter, he said that TikTok’s rival Reels company will be “important for our products as well as Stories”. “We also expect to make significant changes to Instagram and Facebook next year to continue to rely on video and make Reels a more central part of the experience,” Zuckerberg said.
On top of that, he said that the company is internally “reorganizing” in order to make young people its “North Star”. He added that the shift would “last for years, not months”. The issue of younger users is especially burdened for the company. The revelations of a whistleblower about Facebook’s internal research on teen mental health sparked a series of hearings in Congress on child safety and a wave of headlines about how a photo-sharing app could be harmful to some of its most vulnerable users. At the same time, other internal documents indicate that Facebook and Instagram have faced a significant decline in engagement among teenagers and young adults over the years.
Zuckerberg said that the second big priority of the company will be to build its vision for the “metaverse”. He did not comment on reports that the company would change its name to reflect its new focus on augmented reality and virtual reality, but made it clear that the company has significant ambitions in the space. “Our goal is to help the metaverse reach a billion people,” he said. He added that the metaverse could enable “hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce”.
The company also announced on Monday that it will report on two sets of financial data in the future: one for its “family” of applications, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp; and one for his Reality Labs department that oversees his work on augmented and virtual reality. In a statement, Facebook stated that its profit in 2021 will be reduced by 10 billion dollars due to investments in Reality Labs, and that the company will only increase its AR and VR spending in the next “few years”.
Zuckerberg also commented on current findings stemming from Facebook Papers, a series of document-based articles provided by former employee who became whistleblower Frances Haugen. The executive director called the work of the consortium of news organizations “a coordinated effort to selectively use the leaked documents in order to create a false image of our company.” The documents, which formed the basis of more than a dozen stories detailing Facebook’s failed efforts to combat hate speech and other harms, were also provided to members of Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Any honest statement should be clear that these issues do not primarily relate to social networks,” Zuckerberg said. “That means no matter what Facebook does, we’ll never solve them ourselves.”
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