Ironically enough, Facebook isn't out to be "liked."
That was CEO Mark Zuckerberg's message on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call, where he said his focus is communicating Facebook's "principles" instead of seeking to be liked. Facebook (FB) - Get Report shares were down 7.2% in after-hours trading after it beat revenue and earnings estimates, but disclosed heavier expenditures.
"My goal for this next decade isn’t to be liked but to be understood," said Zuckerberg. "We’re going to focus more on communicating our principles."
Zuckerberg described those principles as free speech, encryption and supporting small business, and postulated that Facebook will be "trusted" if it stands up for those principles. Echoing a public statement from earlier this month, he also reiterated Facebook's support for a national privacy law and updated regulations for Internet companies.
"These positions aren’t always going to be popular but I think it's important to take these debates head on," Zuckerberg said, adding: "This is going to be an intense year with the elections."
Facebook sparked a backlash last year when it said that it won't fact-check advertising by politicians, even ones that contain falsehoods. Various elected officials, including Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have called for Facebook to be broken up. And, along with other major tech firms, Facebook is the subject of a sweeping antitrust probe focused on whether it unfairly froze out competitors.
Election security also came up on the fourth-quarter call.
Owing in part to revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, Facebook has had to ratchet up spending on security and privacy initiatives in recent quarters. But Zuckerberg said he is "confident" that the company is prepared for the upcoming 2020 election.
"It's not like this is the first presidential election we’ve had to be a part of defending the integrity of….there have been several important elections across the world [since 2016]," he said. "There are also several good partnerships in place [with U.S law enforcement, intelligence agencies and others]...so I think the systems are much more robust."
As far as the impact of increasing regulations, Facebook CFO Dave Wehner cautioned that Facebook's revenue growth rate may decelerate in Q1 -- partly owing to the maturity of its business, but partly owing to regulatory headwinds.
"While we have experienced some modest impact from these headwinds to date, the majority of the impact lies in front of us," Wehner said.