Scandal-hit Facebook faces US user backlash

Among those in the 18-29 age group, the break with Facebook appeared more pronounced, with 44 per cent claiming to have deleted the Facebook mobile app.
Among those in the 18-29 age group, the break with Facebook appeared more pronounced, with 44 per cent claiming to have deleted the Facebook mobile app.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • A large number of Americans are stepping back from Facebook in the wake of recent scandals over the social network's handling of private user data, a study showed yesterday.

The Pew Research Centre report found 42 per cent of Facebook users in the United States saying they had "taken a break" from the platform in the past 12 months, and 26 per cent saying they had deleted the Facebook app from their phone.

Among those in the 18-29 age group, the break with Facebook appeared more pronounced, with 44 per cent claiming to have deleted the Facebook mobile app.

Although the survey did not indicate how many users were quitting Facebook entirely, the findings suggest a clouded outlook for the company which has been roiled by news of the hijacking of private data by political firm Cambridge Analytica and concerns of foreign influence campaigns on the platform. "Significant shares of Facebook users have taken steps in the past year to reframe their relationship with the social media platform," researcher Andrew Perrin said in a blog post.

According to the Pew survey, three-fourths of US Facebook users have taken some steps to change how they interact with Facebook, including more than half who have changed their privacy settings.

Mr Perrin said the concerns about Facebook appeared to transcend political affiliation.

  • 42%

    US Facebook users who said they had "taken a break" from the platform in the past 12 months, according to Pew Research Centre.

    26%

    Those who said they had deleted the Facebook app from their phone.

"The poll found that nearly identical shares of Democrats and Republicans (including political independents who lean towards either party) use Facebook," he said.

"Republicans are no more likely than Democrats to have taken a break from Facebook or deleted the app from their phone in the past year."

The report was based on a survey, between May 29 and June 11, of 3,413 Facebook users aged 18 and older, with an estimated margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

The survey came ahead of a congressional hearing on foreign influence campaigns on social media. It also came as President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on Internet platforms with his unverified contention that they are suppressing conservatives and Republicans.

Facebook has already lost ground in the US among teens and young adult users, with many of them flocking to Snapchat, but some switching to Facebook-owned Instagram.

But Facebook remains the world's largest social network with well over two billion users.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2018, with the headline 'Scandal-hit Facebook faces US user backlash'. Print Edition | Subscribe