Facebook released its Q1 earnings report this week, which included this bombshell:

“In the first quarter of 2019, we reasonably estimated a probable loss and recorded an accrual of $3.0 billion in connection with the inquiry of the FTC into our platform and user data practices...We estimate that the range of loss in this matter is $3.0 billion to $5.0 billion.”

The fine isn't particularly interesting on its own—Facebook can afford to pay $5 billion. What's fascinating is whether the FTC's forthcoming decision will set a precedent for regulating big tech.

First, let's unpack the fine, and why it won't phase Facebook. Facebook reported $15.07 billion in revenue in Q1 of this year, up from $11.96 billion in Q1 of 2018. It made enough money in a single quarter to eat the expected fine while maintaining profitability and continuing to move forward. Facebook's stock even surged through the news, peaking at a nearly 8% increase the following morning.

While $5 billion is a big number, it's not make-or-break for Facebook. The question of whether the FTC will regulate the way Facebook collects and abuses user data, however, is.

Advertising was responsible for 99% of Facebook's Q1 revenue. If the FTC does anything that would make Facebook's ad platform less powerful—like changing the way Facebook can use user data for targeting, for example—it will be a blow at the core of its businesses. With companies like Google that are similarly reliant on monetizing user data, most of Silicon Valley is watching for the FTC's final decision—and the precedent it will set.

With this kind of effective investigation by the public ordering elected officials to do their jobs, the criminally corrupt, election manipulating, bribing likes of Facebook and Google can be eliminated within four years