Facebook has a big Russia problem, but its stock price and business are going to be just fine

Facebook reports Q3 earnings on Wednesday, but that won’t be the most interesting thing happening for the social giant.

Instead, Facebook’s quarterly numbers will likely be overshadowed by the company’s testimony in Washington, D.C., where General Counsel Colin Stretch will explain to multiple congressional committees how and why Russia was able to use Facebook to spread misinformation during last year’s presidential election.

Facebook’s revelations around Russia have been surprising. The company is expected to tell Congress today, in a separate hearing, that content from Russia-backed accounts may have reached as many as 126 million U.S. users over a two-year period. That’s significantly more widespread than Facebook initially claimed, and it’s a bad look for a company that is grappling with the role it played in helping Donald Trump become president.

But while that looks bad, none of it seems to be impacting Facebook’s business. Facebook’s Q3 revenue is expected to be up more than 40 percent over last year, and the stock is up almost 45 percent since Election Day. Facebook’s ad machine seems completely unaffected by the fact it may have been unknowingly assisting Russia.

Wednesday provides an opportunity for Facebook to explain why — and how — that won’t change.

Lawmakers want to enforce stricter regulation for Facebook and other digital advertising companies, and those proposed regulations come at a time when Facebook’s revenue growth is already slowing down.

The company has been saying for a year that it is running out of places to put ads inside News Feed, and is aggressively looking for alternative revenue streams. (Instagram, so far, has been the most lucrative.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg will likely face some questions about that proposed regulation and how it could impact Facebook’s business down the line. At the very least, expect questions about Facebook’s other advertising initiatives and how they’re doing — last quarter, analysts couldn’t stop asking about the company’s advertising tests on Facebook Messenger.

Facebook scheduled its earnings call on the same day it was set to testify on Russia, which means Zuckerberg and Sandberg won’t have to face questions from Congress. Hopefully, Wall Street’s analysts can make up for it.

Facebook is set to report Q3 earnings at 4 pm ET on Wednesday. Analysts are expecting profits of $1.28 per share on revenue of $9.84 billion.


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