#LogOutFacebook: The social media giant faces protests and canceled accounts

By Aimee Picchi

/ MoneyWatch

Facebook denies exploiting user data

Facebook wants the world to be connected, but some individuals and groups say they're feeling a giant disconnect.

Some consumers are either deleting or deactivating their accounts in the wake of numerous data breaches and privacy issues, which have caused some critics to question whether they want to expose their personal information to the tech giant.

On Thursday, the NAACP organized a protest called #LogOutFacebook, which urges consumers to log out of their Facebook and Instagram accounts for the day, in the wake of the Senate report on Russian interference, which found the Russian government specifically targeted African-American communities on Facebook and Instagram.

To be sure, protests from disgruntled consumers aren't likely to make a dent in Facebook's massive size, which counted nearly 1.5 billion daily active users in September. But the NAACP actions, as well as the decision this week from prominent tech journalist Walt Mossberg to publicly announce he's quitting Facebook and its other social media platforms — Instagram and WhatsApp — highlight a choice contemplated by more Americans following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Senate report.

"I am doing this — after being on Facebook for nearly 12 years — because my own values and the policies and actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I'm no longer comfortable there," Mossberg wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

1/ Some personal news: I've decided to quit Facebook around the end of the year. I am doing this – after being on Facebook for nearly 12 years – because my own values and the policies and actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I’m no longer comfortable there.

— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) December 17, 2018

Mossberg's not alone: Almost one-quarter of Americans say they deleted the Facebook app from their phones within the last year, according to a September poll from the Pew Research Center. Another 42 percent say they have taken a break from the service.

The NAACP protest

The NAACP said it returned a donation from Facebook, and is asking its partners, social media followers and supporters to log out of Facebook and Instagram for one week, beginning Dec. 18.

"The #LogOutFacebook is a protest — a way to signify to Facebook that the data and privacy of its users of color matter more than its corporate interests," the NAACP said in a statement. "As the largest social network in the world, it is Facebook's corporate social responsibility to ensure that people of color are well represented in their workforce and recognize that users of color have a right to be protected propaganda and misinformation."

COO Sheryl Sandberg: "We need to do more"

On Tuesday, Facebook released a progress report on its civil rights audit, which it launched in response to demands from civil rights organizations.

"We know that we need to do more: to listen, look deeper and take action to respect fundamental rights," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, said in a blog post announcing the findings.

The company said it made changes such as cracking down on fake accounts seeking to influence political views. But it remains unclear whether Facebook's efforts will persuade those who have canceled their accounts to return, or whether the social media service can battle one of its biggest challenges: convincing indifferent teens to sign up.

The teen problem

Facebook's high stock-market valuation — $415 billion — is predicated on its strong growth and the vast amounts of data it collects from consumers, which allows it to sell ads for marketers who want to reach certain groups, like dads who live in New York City.

But growth is slowing for the tech behemoth, raising red flags for investors. Its daily active users increased by 9 percent in September, on a year-over-year-basis, down from growth of 11 percent in June.

Facebook needs teens to join the service to continue its fast growth rate, yet that's becoming increasingly uncertain. Only half of American teens between 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, down from 71 percent in 2015. Instead, teens say they prefer YouTube and Instagram for connecting with peers.

Facebook investors have felt the pain from its struggles. The stock has shed one-third of is value from its most recent high, putting it firmly in bear territory.

First published on December 18, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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