Facebook faces a day of reckoning, at least on Wall Street

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Facebook went from a thumbs up from investors to a thumbs down overnight. The stock was down about 24 percent at one point in after-hours trading. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Facebook went from a thumbs up from investors to a thumbs down overnight. The stock plunged 19 percent in early trading Thursday, eradicating well in excess of $100 billion in market value, making this of the worst single-day losses in history.

The stock was down about 24 percent at one point overnight in after-hours trading shedding.

Facebook's user base and revenue grew more slowly than expected in the second quarter as the Menlo Park based company dealt with privacy issues. An executive also warned it expects revenue growth to slow down in the next couple of quarters.

The earnings covered the company's first full quarter since the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal erupted. But analysts attributed the user growth shortfall largely to European privacy rules that went into effect in May, not to the furor over the political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump, which improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

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With an hour before trading began Thursday, shares had plunged more than 19 percent, plucking about $17 billion in net worth out of the pocket of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Still, the results suggest that Facebook may have weathered the scandal without major harm to its business, even if its public image has taken a hit. While revenue fell short of Wall Street estimates, it did so by only about 1 percent; profits, meanwhile exceeded forecasts.

But Facebook continues to grapple with big existential questions, ranging from its users' privacy to tech addiction to how it deals with fake news and misinformation, hate speech and extremism on its service.

At times, it has seemed as though Facebook can't quite decide where its values really lie. For instance, it continues to straddle the line between policing what users say and remaining a neutral platform in an increasingly divided world, and between protecting privacy while collecting as much information on its users as possible.

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Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly users as of June 30, up 11 percent from a year earlier. Analysts were expecting 2.25 billion, according to FactSet. User growth - both on a monthly and daily basis - was flat in the U.S. and the rest of North America, while it declined slightly in Europe.

Facebook has largely saturated in the U.S. and Western European markets, and is now looking to countries such as Brazil, India and Indonesia for new users. Revenue from these regions, however, is far below what Facebook rakes in from the U.S. and Europe.

The company earned $5.1 billion, or $1.74 per share, up 31 percent and above analysts' estimates of $1.71.

But revenue - up 42 percent to $13.23 billion- was slightly below the $13.34 that Wall Street was expecting.

Facebook said the European privacy rules, called General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, did not have a big effect on the quarter's revenue, but also noted that they were only in effect for about a month before the quarter ended.

Over the long term, GDPR may end up favoring Facebook and other large companies that have the resources to adapt to new requirements. They could similarly disadvantage smaller, lesser known companies that don't have the resources to comply and which could face big fines if they don't.

One bright spot for Facebook has been Instagram, the photo-sharing app it bought for $1 billion in 2012. Instagram now has more than 1 billion users, and analysts expect it to be a model for how Facebook molds its other big app purchase, WhatsApp, into a lucrative business. So far, WhatsApp doesn't show ads, and its founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton left Facebook amid disagreements over advertising and other issues.

Click here for more stories on Facebook.

ABC7 News' Matt Keller contributed to this report.
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businessfacebooktechnologymark zuckerbergstock marketu.s. & worldstocksMenlo Park
(Copyright ©2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



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