Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Facebook: COVID-19 outbreak is weakening ad sales

Meanwhile, Facebook is taking steps to ensure product stability and reduce network congestion, such as temporarily reducing bit rates for videos in certain regions.

In spite of increased user engagement on its products correlating with the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook's business is being adversely affected by the global crisis, the company said Tuesday. 

"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," Alex Schultz, Facebook's VP of Analytics, and Jay Parikh, VP of Engineering, said in a blog post

Much of the increased traffic is happening on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, the company said. It's also seeing more people use its "feed" and "stories" products on Facebook and Instagram. 

In many of the countries hit hardest by the virus, total messaging has increased more than 50 percent over the last month, Facebook said. In those countries, voice and video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp has more than doubled.  

In Italy, specifically, Facebook has seen time spent across its apps increase by 70 percent since the coronavirus was detected in the country. Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week. Additionally, messaging increased more than 50 percent, and time in group calling (calls with three or more participants) increase by more than 1,000 percent during the last month. 

To ensure its products remain fast and stable through the spikes in traffic, Facebook is monitoring usage patterns, working to make its systems more efficient and adding capacity as required. It's also preparing for any potential problems that arise.

To help alleviate potential network congestion during the crisis, Facebook is temporarily reducing bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in certain regions.