Facebook usage has plummeted over the last year, even as the company continues to insist that its use has stayed stable or even grown in the same period, according to data seen by the Guardian.
Since April 2018, the first full month after the news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in the Observer, actions on Facebook such as likes, shares and posts have dropped by almost 20%, according to the business analytics firm Mixpanel.
Taking that month as a baseline, total actions fell by more that 10% within a month, recovered a bit over the summer, and then fell again over the autumn and winter of 2018, barring a brief rally over the period of the US general election.
Those declines coincide with a series of data, privacy and hate speech scandals at the social network: as well as the Cambridge Analytica revelations, the company admitted that a further 50m accounts had been breached in October that year, apologised for hiring a PR firm to attack the philanthropist George Soros, and was repeatedly criticised for allowing its platform to be used to fuel ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
The figures are at odds with Facebook’s own statistics, which cite an increase in daily and monthly active users (DAUs and MAUs, those logging on to the site at least once in a given period) over the year ending March 2019. In the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, published in April 2019, it said that “DAUs were 1.56bn on average for March 2019, an increase of 8%” on the previous year, and that MAUs were also up 8% year on year.
Facebook’s own numbers can be reconciled with Mixpanel data, however. Anecdotal reports over the past year have suggested that, while few deleted their Facebook accounts or stopped using the site entirely following the scandals, many more deliberately reduced their Facebook usage. There is statistical evidence of that trend: this month the market research firm eMarketer reported a decline in US Facebook use, with the typical Facebook user spending 38 minutes on the site every day, down from 41 in 2017.
“On top of that, Facebook has continued to lose younger users, who are spreading their time and attention across other social platforms and digital activities,” eMarketer said.
Facebook has been asked for comment.