Google is facing attacks on several fronts. The search giant has received blowback from lawmakers and antitrust prosecutors over allegedly anticompetitive practices. Washington has also harangued Google over its misinformation and child safety policies. The company’s artificial intelligence division is in turmoil, after high-profile terminations and resignations over diversity and ethics.
But there’s still a big bright spot for the company: Business is booming.
For the quarter ended March 31, Google parent Alphabet tallied $55.31 billion in sales, beating analyst estimates of $51.70 billion. Earnings per share were $26.29, smashing expectations of $15.82 per share, according to Refinitiv.
The results further cement the theme that people turned to tech when the pandemic hit, and they never logged off. Whether it was running searches for which meal kits to purchase or burning time on YouTube, big tech — and Google specifically — played an increasingly entrenched role in our lives.
Ad sales from its YouTube unit increased year over year, to $6 billion from $4 billion a yard ago. The tech giant’s cloud unit, which rents server space and artificial intelligence technology to other companies and organizations, also grew over the past year as it sharply narrowed its losses. The division generated $4.04 billion in revenue, up from $2.77 billion.
“Over the last year, people have turned to Google Search and many online services to stay informed, connected and entertained,” Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement. “We’ve continued our focus on delivering trusted services to help people around the world.”
Alphabet’s shares rose more than 5% in after-hours trading.
The earnings report comes as Google has become a familiar presence at Capitol Hill hearing rooms. Earlier Tuesday, Alexandra Veitch, a YouTube government affairs director, joined executives from Facebook and Twitter at a Senate subcommittee hearing about the tech companies’ powerful algorithms. Last week, Google and Apple testified before another Senate subcommittee over anticompetitive practices at their app stores.
More broadly, Google faces serious threats when it comes to antitrust. The company is the target of three major antitrust lawsuits, including a landmark case by the US Department of Justice, and another complaint by a bipartisan coalition of states.
Google has also been dealing with chaos in its artificial intelligence unit for several months. In December, Timnit Gebru, one of the few prominent Black women in the field, announced on Twitter that she was fired over a research paper that calls out risks for bias in AI, including in systems used by Google’s search engine.
The fallout from the situation led to Google’s firing of Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the company’s ethical AI unit with Gebru, after an investigation over data security. Samy Bengio, who managed Gebru and Mitchell and voiced support for them, resigned earlier this month.