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Trump supporters threatened to ditch Facebook. But its user numbers barely budged

January 28, 2021, 1:24 AM UTC

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After Facebook recently banned former President Trump and election misinformation, conservatives threatened to quit the social network. But in fact, the feared “mass exodus” of millions of users never materialized, according to Facebook.  

The company’s namesake service had 195 million daily active users in the U.S. and Canadian users at the end of 2020, down less than 1% from the previous quarter.

Ron Josey, an analyst with investment bank JMP Securities, said the small decline likely had nothing to do with the political tension. Rather, he suspects it was the result of a pandemic-related increase in use of Facebook during the previous quarter, as people looked for ways to connect without meeting in person.

“It’s coming down to more normalized levels,” Josey said. “It’s just a slight decrease, which doesn’t really move the needle.”

Meanwhile, Facebook’s monthly active users in the U.S. and Canada—a measure that includes more infrequent users—grew. In the fourth quarter, Facebook had 258 million monthly active users, up from 255 million the previous quarter.

Globally, Facebook had 1.8 billion daily active users at the end of the fourth quarter, up 1.4% from the previous quarter and 11% year over year.

This isn’t the first time Facebook users have threatened to leave. For years, users have said they would ditch the social network because of how the company manages user data, its content moderation policies, and how it enforces those policies.

For example, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended in 2018 after the revelation that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested Facebook user data. Then, in September of 2020 the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which slammed Facebook for failing to curb hate speech on its service, convinced big businesses to temporarily stop buying ads on Facebook. As part of the campaign, celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Leonardo DiCaprio asked users to join them in temporarily boycotting use of Facebook and Instagram. 

But after each uprising, Facebook has reported strong revenue growth with little to no change in its number of users. “We’ve been talking about this for three years,” Josey said about users leaving Facebook. “But yet, we’re still seeing growth.”

On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the contentious political environment. He announced plans to stop recommending political and civic groups to users as well as explore ways to reduce political content.

“One of the top pieces of feedback that we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” he said.

The political tension may have led to the rise of apps popular with conservatives including Parler, MeWe, and Gab, in some cases temporarily. But it didn’t do much to Facebook’s success … at least not yet.