Despite boasting 1.65 billion global users, there is still a lucrative market Facebook has not been able to tap into. The elephant in the room at the social network’s shareholder meeting, held on Monday, was China, the country that persists in blocking access to Facebook for its 1.3 billion citizens.
The annual meting saw Facebook execs answer its investors’ pressing questions regarding growth. Whereas outsiders, in particular members of the press, had been debating the fate of controversial board member Peter Thiel, Facebook brushed aside any notions of internal division by re-electing all eight of its directors, including the PayPal co-founder. Thiel — who has been in the media spotlight since his secret financial backing of wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media came to light — was not in attendance at the meeting.
In front of an audience of over 100 shareholders, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke of the company’s unremitting interest in China, regardless of its government’s roadblocks. “We’re learning, we’re studying about the Chinese market and we’ll see what happens,” Sandberg said.
The COO claimed she had been in China last week meeting Facebook’s top clients in the country who use its Audience Network tool to show ads to users outside of its borders, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In the past, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has mounted a PR onslaught in China, which has seen him attend major regional summits, meet with officials, and take a divisive jog through Tiananmen Square. Zuckerberg also showed off his Mandarin, alongside his wife, Priscilla Chan; and daughter, Max; in a recent Facebook video to mark the Chinese New Year.
The other major talking point at the gathering, in terms of business, was the approval of the social network’s plan to create a new class of nonvoting shares. The move allows Zuckerberg to maintain an influential hold over the company for the foreseeable future. During the Q&A segment of the meeting, Zuckerberg reassured the audience that he had no plans to depart the social network, saying that he intended to run the company “for a very long time.” The statement resulted in a breakout of applause from the attendees, who (despite planning for any leadership disruptions) have long made it clear that they view Zuckerberg as the right person for the job.
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