scorecardMark Zuckerberg warns that relaxing shelter-in-place rules too soon will cause the pandemic to worsen, saying it will 'guarantee' future outbreaks
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Mark Zuckerberg warns that relaxing shelter-in-place rules too soon will cause the pandemic to worsen, saying it will 'guarantee' future outbreaks

Hugh Langley   

Mark Zuckerberg warns that relaxing shelter-in-place rules too soon will cause the pandemic to worsen, saying it will 'guarantee' future outbreaks
Tech2 min read
  • After Facebook reported better-than-expected earnings, CEO Mark Zuckerberg opined about the potential damage of reopening the economy too soon.
  • "I worry that re-opening too quickly will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worse health and economic outcomes," he said.
  • Facebook users are surging, but the company acknowledges this probably won't last after the pandemic. It also acknowledged a "significant reduction" in the demand for advertising.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It was good news in Facebook's Q1 earnings, with the company beating Wall Street expectations and announcing surging user numbers, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg began the company's earnings call with a somber tone as he pondered the potentially harmful effects of opening up society too soon amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I worry that re-opening too quickly will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worse health and economic outcomes," said Zuckerberg.

The CEO also said he was fearful that the health emergency and economic fallout of the pandemic will last longer than people realize.

While Zuckerberg's comments might not seem all that controversial, the Facebook founder's remarks come as another high profile tech exec — Elon Musk — has been busy protesting the lockdowns, tweeting things like "Give the people their freedom back!"

Facebook said the coronavirus outbreak hit its ad revenue hard in March, as the prices of its ads plunged and businesses in sectors like travel and automobiles halted marketing efforts on the social network.

But users have flocked to Facebook's collection of products, which includes WhatsApp and Instagram, during the pandemic. The total number of people using at least one Facebook product per month reached 2.99 billion in the first quarter.

Facebook credited the surge in user engagement to the pandemic and the lockdowns in countries across the world, as people look for ways to stay connected with friends and family and to learn more information about the disease. Even virtual reality — a technology that has struggled to catch on with mainstream users — appears to be getting a boost.

Facebook's "other revenues" category, which includes hardware like it Oculus VR headset and Portal smart speakers, were up 80% year-on-year.

"Technology that allows us to feel present" is appealing when people can't travel in real life, Zuckerberg said on the call. "It's possible that this accelerated some of the trends around adoption."

But Zuckerberg stopped short of predicting a long-term acceleration in virtual reality. And Facebook acknowledged that once the threat of the pandemic subsides, the crowds now visiting its various online services will thin out.

"We expect that we will lose at least some of this increased engagement when various shelter-in-place restrictions are relaxed in the future," the company said.

In addition to the significant health risks posed by re-opening society too soon, Facebook's founder has another reason to hope people stay put in the safety of their homes

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