Facebook Earnings Preview: Three Things to Watch After Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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Can Facebook — despite concerns over waning user enthusiasm and its protection of data — post another big quarter, when the social network reports its Q1 earnings on Wednesday afternoon?

The social network’s business looked to be extremely strong back in January, with the company reporting that it hauled in nearly $13 billion during the final months of 2017 — making it the 11th straight quarter Facebook had topped sales estimates. Things were getting boring. Facebook would report earnings, and they’d beat expectations, and that was that. Even after admitting it did little to block Russian trolls from hitting more than 100 million users with disinformation during the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook was still racking up users and ad dollars. Its business was Teflon.

But is that still the case? Following the revelation in March that political firm Cambridge Analytica grabbed data on up to 87 million unwitting users, the company has been publicly skewered. Outcry over how Facebook protects its 2 billion users has forced the company into issuing a mea culpa on seemingly an every-other-day basis. CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress earlier this month, and Facebook has tightened its restrictions on the data apps can access. It has also forced the company to tweak how advertisers can target users — potentially impacting its revenue stream.

Also Read: Sen. John Kennedy to Mark Zuckerberg: ‘Your User Agreement Sucks’

Before the scandal, Facebook had been cruising near all-time highs on Wall Street, trading at $185 a share. It was quickly knocked down to $150 share and has since lingered around $160 a share, as investors wait to get a glimpse of the business’ health.

With the company reporting its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, we’re about to find out how healthy it is. Here are three things to keep an eye on:

1) Lagging User Growth

Also Read: Russian Trolls Increase ‘2,000 Percent’ After Syrian Bombing, Says Pentagon

Even before the Cambridge Analytica news, Facebook was grappling with an apathetic audience at home. The company reported it lost 1 million daily active users in the U.S. last quarter –falling from 185 million to 184 million DAUs. It was the first time since Facebook started reporting earnings it had lost domestic users.

Investors gave it a pass, with the company’s global growth still outpacing its U.S. decline. Facebook reported 1.4 billion international DAUs and 2.13 billion monthly active users in January. Still, two straight down quarters would be cause for concern on Wall Street.

A #DeleteFacebook movement gained momentum during the Cambridge Analytica fallout, with celebs from Will Ferrell to Elon Musk dumping their pages. Whether that foreshadowed a widespread exile remains to be seen, though. At the same time, as people were dropping the social network, Facebook’s app was sitting atop the App Store.

Also Read: Here’s How to Check If Your Facebook Data Was Leaked

2) Ad Dollars

This goes hand-in-hand with its massive user base — will advertisers start jumping ship? The full impact of Cambridge Analytica, if there is one, might not show itself until Facebook reports its Q2 earnings, but the company’s ad dominance doesn’t appear in danger, yet. Analysts are still projecting Facebook will bring in $11.4 billion in revenue for the quarter.

The reason is simple: Besides Google, Facebook is the only other game in town when it comes to online advertising. Together, both companies bring in 85 percent of all new ad dollars online. “Marketers don’t have realistic options for social ads, and re-marketing is just too powerful and profitable to stop doing it,” Dennis Yu, chief technical officer of digital marketing firm BlitzMetrics, told TheWrap.

And the changes Facebook has made to its targeted ads will have a negligible impact on its sales, according to Yu.”The fact that you can no longer target black people who are 34, gay, like My Little Pony, and work at the Post Office is something people were afraid could happen, but such micro-targeting generated basically zero ad revenue for Facebook,” said Yu.

3) Instagram 

Also Read: Facebook Announces Independent Probe Into Social Media’s Impact on Elections

Instagram could be Facebook’s ace in the hole. If it slips on user growth for the mothership or misses on revenue or earnings, Facebook might look to divert attention by highlighting its picture-sharing app. The company has been quick to point out how fast Instagram is growing — with more than 800 million users now — but hesitant to report how much money it is pulling in from those eyeballs. This could be the time for Facebook to show off how it’s monetizing Instagram, with the app now boasting more than 2 million advertisers.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Facebook Finally Reveals How It Bans Content

Facebook Prompts Users to Approve Targeted Ads

Facebook, Microsoft, More Join Fight to ‘Defend All Customers’ From Cyberattacks

Quentin Tarantino Steals The Show At Sony’s Slick Presentation Of A Pretty Dark Slate And Very Special Dog – CinemaCon

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From my perspective, truly the most exciting and personally anticipated piece of footage of upcoming films touted at tonight’s kick-off Sony Pictures CinemaCon presentation was for a movie for which not one foot of film has yet to be shot.
Pickin…

Sony At CinemaCon: Will Ferrell Sings Celine Dion; ‘Holmes & Watson’, ‘White Boy Rick’ & More

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At last year’s CinemaCon, it was all about the jaw-dropping footage from Blade Runner 2049 which Sony had foreign on, but this year the Culver City lot started with the funny, specifically Holmes & Watson star Will Ferrell and built to star-s…

How ‘The LEGO Movie’ Was ‘Ready Player One’ First, and Better (Commentary)

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(Note: This post contains spoilers for “Ready Player One.”)

If you’re a fan of Steven Spielberg’s hit film “Ready Player One,” I get it. On the surface it’s hard to hate on the idea of a film packed with nostalgic callouts to old pop culture, plus a message of friendship, acceptance, and the value of real life versus escapism.

But that’s on the surface. Ultimately, the larger messages and themes are just backdrop to cool visuals and a ton of references, the references don’t really amount to anything except a list of things audiences probably like, and the film’s characters largely just define themselves mainly by liking that stuff.

But what if we told you there was a far superior version of “Ready Player One” that is all of that and much more, and also came out four years earlier? There is: it’s called “The LEGO Movie.”

Also Read: All 42 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including ‘Tomb Raider’ (Photos)

Both “Ready Player One” and “The LEGO Movie” are epic adventures about playing in a fantasy world populated by characters owned largely by Warner Bros., dressed up in more meaningful messages to dilute the consumerism. And both films feature deliberately uninteresting protagonists who seem defined largely by their interests. But that’s where the similarities basically end.

The main character of “Ready Player One,” Wade (Tye Sheridan), proudly likes the right things — “Back to the Future,” “Buckaroo Banzai,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “The Shining” and so on. It’s part of his quest to win riches by solving a puzzle at the heart of the online virtual world OASIS, essentially an enormous online video game. But while OASIS is a place where you can supposedly “be anything,” the things that people most often end up being are the creations of other people, and owned by other people.

The mess of characters running around the OASIS — and there’s a lot of them — aren’t made interesting in some way by being used by the players who inhabit them. They’re just quick shots of things you’ve seen before. “The Iron Giant,” the DeLorean from “Back to The Future,” and so on.

Also Read: TV Shows You Should Binge-Watch Right Now, From ‘OITNB’ to ‘Better Call Saul’ (Photos)

But where liking the right stuff and knowing everything about it is a virtue (and Wade’s whole life) in “Ready Player One,” “The LEGO Movie” uses that idea as a jumping off point. The film follows regular guy Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) who, like Wade, likes everything everyone else likes and defines himself by his conformity.

But unlike Wade, Emmet spends the movie figuring out his own identity. The entire plot of “The LEGO Movie” is Emmet finding what makes him unique, an idea taken even further when it’s revealed the entire story is a game being played by Finn (Jadon Sand), a real-life kid. The main conflict of the movie — that LEGO character President Business (Will Ferrell) wants to destroy the universe with the “Kragle,” a bottle of Krazy Glue — is actually a metaphor for Finn’s father wanting to freeze his LEGO sets into permanent finished states. The film eventually has Finn’s father realize that his son is using the toys to create for himself, and to express his individuality.

Meanwhile, even as it makes use of a references to the Warner Bros. stable — DC superheroes, Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings,” Dumbledore from “Harry Potter” — “The LEGO Movie” goes a step further than “Ready Player One.”

Also Read: 39 Movies Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Executive Produced, From ‘Lego Batman’ to ‘CHIPS’ (Photos)

“The LEGO Movie” jokes that Superman would ghost an annoying fellow hero, that Batman would be an insufferable narcissist, that Gandalf and Dumbledore don’t have time to shepherd every random hero through his or her origin story. These aren’t just shoutouts to random characters, they’re subversions of viewer expectation. Your understanding of the source material is expanded, not just catered to.

Both “Ready Player One” and “The LEGO Movie” are ultimately about playing in a preexisting pop culture world. But where “Ready Player One” flashes a picture of a thing you like, “The LEGO Movie” bothers to know something about it, and turns it into something new and surprisingly deep. That’s special and, four years later, something that hasn’t fully been duplicated.

Related stories from TheWrap:

All 42 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including ‘Tomb Raider’ (Photos)

14 Times Video Games Continued the Stories of Movies (Photos)

39 Movies Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Executive Produced, From ‘Lego Batman’ to ‘CHIPS’ (Photos)

Can You Spot ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’s’ Hidden ‘Arrested Development’ Reference?

53 Celebs Who Were Reported Dead… But Weren’t (Photos)

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Will Ferrell
A fake press release posted on the iNewswire Web site in March 2006 claiming that Ferrell was killed in a paragliding accident in Southern California when a wind gust caused him to lose crash into trees.

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake
As a joke, two Dallas jockeys claimed a car accident took the lives of pop stars perished, who were dating at the time. “The first thing I did was call Britney,” Timberlake told ABC News in 2001. “Since the beginning, [when] people knew about our relationship, there’s always been things that have been said that were totally not true, but this just, like, took it to a whole ‘nother planet.”

Avril Lavigne
Rumors began circulating in April 2003 that the “Complicated’ singer killed herself after her grandfather’s death. In recent weeks, Twitter gave new fuel to that fire, igniting a conspiracy theory that the Lavigne known today was actually look-alike singer Melissa Vandella. As the theory goes, the suits at Lavigne’s label cooked up the cover up scheme so they could continue to release her songs.

Paul McCartney
Conspiracy loving Beatles fans believe that McCartney died in 1966 and everything that’s happened to “him” since then is courtesy of a look-alike and sound-alike. Not only that, they believe clues to McCartney’s fate were revealed in songs written by fellow musicians George Harrison and John Lennon. Like, Lennon’s “A Day in the Life,” where the lyrics “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him”… which can only be heard when the song is played backward.

Kanye West
Social media, again, ran amuck Dec. 2016 with the theory that West’s uncharacteristic behavior at the time was because it wasn’t really him… it was a clone. You read that right. Cancelling his tour, dying his hear, having a public meltdown and dissing Beyonce and Jay Z while cozying up to Donald Trump was enough proof for some.

Eddie Murphy
The actor/comedian has been the subject of false reports of his death more than once. On Aug. 30, 2012, has was said to have been killed in a snowboard accident and, most recently, was again the subject of internet buzz after the death of his brother Charlie confused.

Vin Diesel
Facebook was the starting point for a post about the death of the “Fate of the Furious” actor went viral. The post linked to what they said was a video report that requested permission to access the viewer’s accounts. If granted, the “RIP Vin Diesel” post was sent as spam to everyone on that user’s friends list.

Adam Sandler
LinkBeef, which was the breeding ground for several celebrity death hoaxes, reported on Jan. 13, 2017, that Sandler was found dead of an apparent suicide and even cited their source as Marin County Police Department in California and “quoted” Sandler’s “utterly heartbroken” wife, Jackie.

Denzel Washington
Remember that fake news about Eddie Murphy dying in a snowboarding accident? Facebook tried the same story with Washington in Nov. 2011.

Nicolas Cage
Although trafficforgoods.site’s July 2016 headline that “Nicolas Cage passed away because of a serious Motorcycle Accident” and the body of the story said he died when he “lost control of his snowboard and struck a tree,” social media took the bait and ran with it. Another fake news outlet picked up the story, tweaked it and added a Photoshopped pic of a motorcycle crash scene, Cage’s face and a CNN chyron.

Hillary Clinton
Following Hillary Clinton’s appearance at a 9/11 memorial in Sept. 2016 in which she appeared to collapse while getting into a van, ABC News weekend anchor Joe Torres said on that evening’s newscast, “We begin with the breaking news about Hillary Clinton’s death.” The anchor meant to say “health” rather than “death,” but Twitter nonetheless had a field day, sparking speculation that the woman who emerged from her daughter Chelesa’s home a few hours later was a look-alike because the former first lady had died.

Sean Kingston
BBC News shocked the music world when they reported the Jamaican-American singer was found dead at his home weeks after he crashed his jet ski accident in a bridge in Miami. “Today” caught up with the 21-year-old three months later about his near-death experience.

Jackie Chan
“Jackie is alive and well,” read a note on the action star’s Facebook page following internet buzz that he died. “He did not suffer a heart attack and die, as was reported on many social networking sites and in online news reports.”

Cher
Cher was added to the celebrity death hoax list of victims after a “R.I.P. Cher” Facebook page was created in Sept. 2016. Although the post concluded with the message “Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page,” wasn’t a clue that it was a fake, the reports of her passing went viral and attracted nearly a million likes.

Macaulay Culkin
When the “Home Alone” star was targeted by death rumors in Nov. 2014, he debunked the reports by taking to Instagram and posting a photo parodying a scene from “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Betty White
People are so in love with Betty White that when her name trends on Twitter, they freak out with worry that she’s met her maker. As recently as May 10, a tweet popped up saying that she was found dead and another one said her publicist confirmed it. Shortly thereafter, someone set up a GoFunMe to protect her from harm.

Eminem
A fake news story reporting Eminem‘s death in a car accident went viral in 2009. The story went as far as to blame the rapper for the crash, saying he swerved into an oncoming truck because he was on his cell phone.

Jim Carrey
And here we go again with that same snowboarding accident report that keeps popping up with the same facts and only the name of the “deceased” changed. Yup, Carrey was said to have died in April 2016. Even weirder, necropedia.org posted his “anticipated” obituary with a May 20, 2017 date.

Celine Dion
Never-ending rumors of Dion’s death on social media do not sit well the singer, in great part because each time one sprouts wings and flies, she has to ease her aging mother’s fears. “The thing that worries me is my mum,” according to Digital Spy. “It makes me a little mad – she’s 86 years old and if I’m not on the phone telling her I’m OK four seconds after it’s on the news… it doesn’t matter what they say, it’s the impact it has on your family.”

Beyonce
Jewelry can kill you, or at least that’s the rumor that started after the singer accidentally ripped out an earring during a Brooklyn concert and blood began running down her face. A Facebook page claimed she had died because she didn’t seek medical attention. The BeyHive was not happy about the hoax.

Jack Black
The Twitter account for Black’s band Tenacious D was hacked in June 2016 and the culprits posted this unsettling message: “It is with a heavy heart I am to announce that Jack Black passed away last night at 3:37 am. The cause of death is yet unknown.” They later cleared up the mess, posting, “WE had our Twitter account hacked. We can assure you that Jack is ALIVE and WELL and that this was a sick ‘prank.’”

Chevy Chase
According to Breaking 13 News, the “Community” actor died in his sleep after suffering a heart attack on Jan. 6, 2016.

Alice Cooper
Fans of the musician got a little confused in the early ’70s after reading Melody Maker magazine’s satirical review of Cooper’s concert in the form of a mock obit. He later issued a statement saying, “I’m alive, and drunk as usual.”

Russell Crowe
The “Gladiator” took matters into his own hands in June 2010 by tweeting, “Unable to answer tweets fell off a mountain in Austria, all over red rover. Don’t know how I got there, but the media are never wrong. G’Bye.”

Miley Cyrus
The “Wrecking Ball” singer has dodged the social medium Grim Reaper more than once. In 2008, she was said to have been killed by a hit and run driver, and in 2009 socialite Peaches Geldolf tweeted that a “friend in the industry” texted her that Cyrus had died. Cyrus’ appearances at the time during a London concert put those issues to rest.

Dwayne Johnson
A Facebook post went viral in April 2014 saying that The Rock died while filming a stunt for “Fast & Furious 7.” He posted a message to his fans on Facebook saying, “Rumors of my death are false – Im still ‘Bringin’ It’ 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – including leap year!” A tweet of his took a more direct approach: “I would love to meet the person who is starting rumors of my death – to show them how a dead foot feels up their ass.”

Michael Jordan
The web site Cronica MX posted an article in Feb. 2015 reporting the NBA superstar died on a heart attack. They took it a step further by producing a video with spliced footage of a breaking news segment and a tearful anchor.

Martin Lawrence
Martin Lawrence was reportedly found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room by a maid named Verna Del Sosa in 2015. Lawrence never mentioned it directly, but he did make his un-dead self known visible on social media in the days following his “death.”

Madonna
A BBC News video uploaded on YouTube on Sept. 24, 2010 announced Madonna was dead. They were, obviously, wrong.

Willie Nelson
The rumors of Willie Nelson‘s imminent demise have been exaggerated, his publicist says, disputing reports the country music icon is on death’s door. “He’s perfectly fine,” Elaine Schock told the Associated Press on Wednesday, attempting to finally shut down rumors sparked by a March 13 Radar Online story that described the 83-year-old as “deathly ill” and said his lungs weren’t strong enough to perform. A “bad cold” forced Nelson to cancel several shows in January and February, but he was back onstage by Feb. 16, when he played at a San Antonio rodeo. And last week he performed at a Houston stadiumfor 75,000 fans, where he appeared to be in good health and had no problems singing.

Barack Obama
on July 4, 2011, a hacker collective called “The Script Kiddies” took control of Fox News’s politics Twitter feed and posted that the incumbent President had been assassinated during a campaigning event in Iowa.

Sean Penn
News reports popped up on Jan. 12, 2016 that Sean Penn was found murdered in his Malibu home and that authorities were investigating that El Chapo might have ordered a hit on the actor/director who interviewed him shortly before.

Axl Rose
On December 3, 2014, a fake news report circulated on the internet claiming that the singer had been found dead at home. In response, Rose tweeted “If I’m dead do I still have to pay taxes?”

Arnold Schwarzenegger
An Aug. 28, 2015 post on MSMBC.co (not to be mistaken for MSNBC.com) reported that the former Governator died following a heart attack. But this was one time he did not say “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Justin Bieber
If you believe social media, Bieber has been “dead” more times than you can count. There were suicide rumors in 2009, which resurfaced in 2010), along with a shooting in a nightclub and an overdose. Then there was #RIPJustinBieber, which trended on Twitter in Jan. 2011.

Robert Redford
The Sundance Film Festival founder’s publicist stepped in to call reports of his death “a sick hoax.” The fake news initialed from Britain’s Sky News, which said he had fallen off a “golf buggy” in Santa Monica.

Gabourey Sidibe
The “Empire” star was barraged with tweets from concerned fans in March 2016, who were just checking to make sure she was still alive, following post saying she had died from an asthma attack. Sidibe assured everyone she was fine, but joking that maybe she was dead, if her “version of Hell is people believing poorly written articles about me.”

Lindsay Lohan
A tweak to Lohan’s Wikipedia page in July 2011 cited her death and credited E! News as their source – which was false. But the news spread, thanks to a fake Kim Kardashian Twitter account.

Hilary Duff
The former Disney star was said to have fallen to her death on the Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.

Will Smith
May 2011 was not a pleasant month for Smith, who was reported killed in a car accident, after an overdose and falling off that same cliff where Hilary Duff supposedly perished.

Carlos Santana
A Sept. 2015 tweet from a Canadian journalist reporting that Santana’s body was found in a car sparked immediate denials from his peeps. “He is alive and well and enjoying his morning!” his rep told USA Today. Team Santana add to that message, posting on their Facebook page, “… Thank you all for your concern, but the reports of his passing are false.”

Bill Cosby
After the internet announced the comedian’s death, he tweeted, “To the people behind the foolishness, I’m not sure you see how upsetting this is.”

Paris Hilton
While Paris Hilton was serving jail time in 2007 for a DUI, the internet spread word that she had been stabbed to death by a fellow inmate. The story was originally posted on-line and made to look as if it was coming from CNN.

Taylor Swift
Apparently, 2009 was not a good year for Swift. She was said to have been in a fatal car accident and then, months later, died from an allergic reaction to sleeping pills, which spread like wildfire on Facebook and YouTube.

Nick Jonas
The pop singer-turned-actor was also the victim of death hoaxes twice in 2009. One report said he died of cardiac arrest due to complications with his diabetes, while another said his heart stopped after a lap dance in a Dallas strip joint.

Morgan Freeman
Although CNN had initially been accused of claiming that Freeman had died, it was actually a Twitter user named @originalcjizzle, who later wrote, “I had no intention of things turning out this way.”

Zach Braff
The “Scrubs” actor was reported dead in 2009 by a fake CNN.Com page. The perpetrator of the “joke” later posted an apology, saying in part, “… Thanks for (apparently) taking it lightly, since I haven’t gotten a letter about a lawsuit yet. Just so you know, I’m a huge fan; that’s the only reason I made this page, believe it or not. Also, sorry for upsetting your mother.”

Bob Hope
Film legend Bob Hope’s death was announced five years prematurely in 1998 when a pre-written obituary was accidentally published on the Associated Press website. Unfortunately, the erroneous report of his “death” was then announced by the United States House of Representatives live on C-Span.

Mark Twain
We couldn’t leave out humorist Mark Twain, who became known for, among many other things, one of history’s most misquoted quotes. In 1897, Twain he responded to a journalist’s inquity about his health by writing, “James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Will Ferrell Hospitalized After Freeway Crash

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Actor Will Ferrell was taken to the hospital Thursday night following a crash in Aliso Viejo, Calif., according to the California Highway Patrol. Ferrell was a passenger in an SUV that was sideswiped on the northbound I-5 at 10:55 p.m. Video footage from the scene showed Ferrell talking on a cell phone while being loaded […]