Zuckerberg at hearing

The Social Not-work: 44 per cent of young US Facebook users delete app

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According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre, US Facebook users are changing their relationship with the social network, with many deleting the app from their phones and tightening their privacy settings.

The study found that 42 per cent of US adult Facebook users had taken a significant break from checking Facebook of several weeks or more, and 26 per cent had deleted the app from their phones altogether. A majority of Facebook users surveyed (54 per cent) said that they had adjusted their privacy settings in the past year. Altogether, 74 per cent of Facebook users said that they had taken at least one of the three actions in the past year.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Centre during May and June, following reports that now-defunct data analytics company Cambridge Analytica had collected data from 83 million Facebook users without their explicit consent or knowledge in order to develop targeted political advertising tools. The scandal came amid ongoing anger relating to abuse, violent content, hate speech and misinformation flourishing on the platform.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook responded by updating its privacy settings to make it easier for users to review the data the company could collect about them, including by downloading all the personal data that Facebook holds on their account. According to the survey, 9 per cent of Facebook users have downloaded their personal data from Facebook, and almost half of these privacy-conscious users went on to delete the app.

The survey found that young Americans were most likely to have adjusted their privacy settings with 64 per cent of 18-29-year-olds adjusting their settings and 44 per cent of this group deleting the app. Just 12 per cent of users aged 65 or above, in comparison, have deleted the app from their phone.

Despite recent allegations that Facebook and other internet platforms “censor” conservative voices – including President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims this week that social media companies have already interfered in the upcoming midterm elections with a “super liberal” bias – the survey found that very similar percentages of Democrats and Republicans used Facebook, with neither political group more likely to have taken a break from Facebook or deleted it from their phone.

The allegations of censorship on social media led to executives representing Facebook and Twitter to be called before Congress this week to address the issue. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, admitted that the platform filtered some tweets based on the behaviour of the users interacting with those accounts, although this did not account for political stance: “[Twitter does not] shadow-ban anyone based on political ideology, he said.

Dorsey said that Twitter no longer applied the filter. Meanwhile, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, told Congress that Facebook was working to clamp down on inauthentic accounts, but admitted that the company had been slow to respond to criticism. Google was criticised for declining to send an executive to testify; an empty chair was markedly left beside Dorsey and Sandberg.

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