The decline coincided with a series of data, privacy and hate speech scandals. In September the company discovered a breach affecting 50m accounts, in November it admitted that an executive hired a PR firm to attack the philanthropist George Soros, and it has been repeatedly criticised for allowing its platform to be used to fuel ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
Facebook’s own statistics show increases in daily and monthly active users (DAUs and MAUs), the numbers logging on to the site at least once in the respective periods, during the year ending March 2019.
In the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, published in April, it said it averaged 1.56bn DAUs in March up 8% on March 2018, and MAUs were also up 8% year on year.
The two sets of numbers can be reconciled. Anecdotal reports over the past year have suggested that while few users have deleted their Facebook accounts or stopped logging on since the scandals, many have reduced their usage.
This month a market research firm, eMarketer, reported a decline in Facebook usage in the US, saying the typical Facebook user spent 38 minutes a day on the site, down from 41 minutes in 2017.
“On top of that, Facebook has continued to lose younger users, who are spreading their time and attention across other social platforms and digital activities,” eMarketer said.