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Facebook, alarmed by teen usage drop, left investors in the dark

Bloomberg10/25/2021 7:53 PM GMT+08  • 15 min read
Facebook, alarmed by teen usage drop, left investors in the dark
The whole company was just trying to understand a generation that they weren’t a part of.
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In March, a group of researchers inside Facebook Inc. compiled a report for one of the company’s most powerful executives, Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. The paper included a series of charts and data highlighting a troubling trend that seemed to be accelerating: Facebook was losing popularity with teens and young adults.

One colourful graphic showed that “time spent” for U.S. teenagers on Facebook was down 16% year-over-year, and that young adults in the U.S. were also spending 5% less time on the social network. The number of new teen signups was declining, and perhaps most concerning was a series of slides showing that young people were taking much longer to join Facebook than they had in the past. Most people born before 2000 had created a Facebook account by age 19 or 20, the research showed. Now Facebook wasn’t expecting people born later to join the social network until they were much older, perhaps 24 or 25, if ever.

The report is among hundreds of internal documents collected by former Facebook employee-turned-whistle-blower Frances Haugen, who went public in early October with accusations that Facebook has been prioritizing profits over user safety and security. The documents were disclosed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including Bloomberg News. Some of the documents were previously used in stories on growth, teenagers and other topics by The Wall Street Journal.

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