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For the last several years, Facebook has had a problem retaining users in their teens and 20s, and the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal may be accelerating the transition to other platforms. The Pew Research Center reports today that nearly half of Facebook's US users between the ages of 18 and 29 have deleted the Facebook app from their phone within the last 12 months.

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Across all age groups, the percentage of deletions drops from 44 to 26 percent, including about 25 percent of US users aged 30 to 49. Likelihood of deleting the app decreases with age, and only 12 percent of users 65 or older have deleted the app in this time frame.

Pew surveyed a representative sampling of 4,594 users, with a margin of error of 2.4 percent and a response rate of 84 percent. The surveys were conducted with both landlines and mobile phones.

The survey also investigated potential connections between political party affiliation and app deletion, in the wake of accusations from the right wing that Facebook and other social media platforms are suppressing their content. However, the survey found that an equal number of Republicans and Democrats reported deleting the Facebook app. The accusation don't appear to be driving a mass response among conservative users.

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Deleting the app also doesn't necessarily mean that the user is deleting or deactivating their actual Facebook account, and a certain percentage of users tend to return to the social network. But it's a reliable indicator that Facebook's presence on our mobile devices is in decline, at least in the US.

Globally, Facebook's user activity remains high. In its second quarter earnings report in late July, the company claimed an 11 percent year-over-year increase in both daily and monthly active users. The company also recorded a 31 percent increase in net income compared to one year earlier, with a tally of $5.1 billion. Facebook does not report user activity on a country-by-country basis.

The company announced a global launch of its Facebook Watch video streaming platform just last week in a bid to compete with YouTube, and it continues to experiment with new ways for users to connect, but the report from Pew Research indicates that Facebook is facing a cloudy future domestically. A weakened network effect can impact how much money it charges advertisers, which is where Facebook collects the lion's share of its revenue.

The takeaways

  • The Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of Facebook's US users within the ages of 18 and 29 have deleted the Facebook app within the last year.
  • Despite this decline among younger users, Facebook's monthly and daily active users continues to grow internationally, as does its quarterly profits.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.