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Facebook is struggling to keep up with 'unprecedented' traffic

Millions of people are stuck inside, and they are using Facebook to cope.
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If it seems like your Facebook feed is more active than usual these days, it's not just you: The company really is seeing a massive surge in use as millions of people around the world are forced to stay home.

In Italy alone, Facebook has seen time spent increase by 70 percent and messaging increase more than 50 percent, the company said.

That may seem like good news for Facebook, which has seen growth in its main app slow in recent years. But the company says the usage is straining its own resources. "The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day," the company's VP of Analytics, Alex Schultz, and VP of Infrastructure, Jay Pareikh, wrote in a statement. "Maintaining stability throughout these spikes in usage is more challenging than usual now that most of our employees are working from home."

While Facebook has so far been able to keep its services up and running, the company has had to make some concessions. Facebook has decreased video quality in Europe, and has pulled back most of the contract workforce who work as content moderators.

The company also warned that its revenue could take a hit, as its ad business has declined in recent weeks due to the pandemic. Twitter and other media companies have issued similar warnings. "We don't monetize many of the services where we're seeing increased engagement, and we've seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19," Schultz and Parikh wrote.

Even as Facebook struggles to keep up with technical challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the company has been steadily releasing updates and new features, which have earned it some goodwill after years of scandals. The company has introduced a range of features meant to combat the spread of conspiracy theories and other potentially harmful misinformation. And Instagram updated its fact-checking rules and added a new Co-Watching feature for video calls. Some of the company's engineers will also participate in a hackathon to help health organizations, Mark Zuckerberg said.

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