Facebook and Twitter execs faced tough questions on Capitol Hill today over failure to stop Russian propaganda operations and white supremacist users (Google didn't even bother to show up apparently) and it did not go well for any of them, especially when Alex Jones showed up as a guest.
The Senate Intelligence committee's hearing on election interference on social media Wednesday swiftly turned into unconventional political theater, complete with a conspicuously empty chair set aside to highlight Google's absence and a notable cameo from InfoWars host Alex Jones.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg fielded questions for nearly three hours on their companies' efforts to combat online disinformation and foreign influence operations ahead of the midterm elections. Lawmakers also pressed the executives on an array of issues including data privacy, hate speech and doing business China.
But it was Jones, who claims he's being silenced by the tech giants, who grabbed attention outside the hearing room, where a scrum of reporters huddled around him as he pontificated on the wrongs he said the industry has done him. The far-right provocateur, known for spreading baseless conspiracy theories, at times took a seat in the front row of the hearing room as Dorsey and Sandberg testified.
No wonder then that new numbers from Pew Research finds Americans are dumping Facebook like toxic waste (along with Trump having the same effect on Twitter) and that the primary social media networks of this decade may not even make it into the next.
Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.
The findings come from a survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11, following revelations that the former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.
Facebook has separately faced scrutiny from conservative lawmakers and pundits over allegations that it suppresses conservative voices. The Center found that the vast majority of Republicans think that social platforms in general censor political speech they find objectionable. Despite these concerns, the poll found that nearly identical shares of Democrats and Republicans (including political independents who lean toward either party) use Facebook. 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.
There are, however, age differences in the share of Facebook users who have recently taken some of these actions. Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12%) who have done so. Similarly, older users are much less likely to say they have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings in the past 12 months: Only a third of Facebook users 65 and older have done this, compared with 64% of younger users. In earlier research, Pew Research Center has found that a larger share of younger than older adults use Facebook. Still, similar shares of older and younger users have taken a break from Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.
It's Millennials who are abandoning Facebook, and without them, the network is done. Generation Z won't even have Facebook around to get into at this rate. Google is in the best position of the three, but that's not saying much.
Couldn't happen to a nicer group of privacy-abusing assholes.