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  • The Facebook logo is displayed on the company's website in an illustration taken in Bordeaux, France, February 2017.

    The Facebook logo is displayed on the company's website in an illustration taken in Bordeaux, France, February 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 September 2018

Facebook has already lost ground among teens and young adult users, most notably to Snapchat, but others are switching to Facebook-owned Instagram.

U.S. citizens are stepping back from Facebook en masse in the wake of recent scandals over the social network's handling of private user data, a study showed Wednesday.

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The Pew Research Center report found 42 percent of U.S. Facebook users said they had "taken a break" from the platform in the past 12 months, and 26 percent said 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 percent 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.

"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 Pew's survey, three-quarters of U.S. Facebook users have taken some steps to change how they interact with Facebook, including more than half who have changed their privacy settings.

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

"The poll found that nearly identical shares of Democrats and Republicans (including political independents who lean toward 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 including 3,413 Facebook users aged 18 and older, with an estimated margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

The survey comes ahead of a congressional hearing on foreign influence campaigns on social media, at which Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is due to testify.

It also comes as U.S. President Donald Trump steps up his attacks on internet platforms with his unverified contention that they are suppressing conservatives and Republicans.

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