More people are taking Facebook breaks and deleting the app from their phones

The Facebook exodus among young people is real, and disenchantment with the leading social media platform is extending to older users, too. According to new data from Pew Research Center that sampled US Facebook users aged 18 and up, 4 in 10 (42 percent) of those surveyed have taken a break from the social network for “several weeks or more” in the last year; a quarter of respondents said they’ve deleted the mobile app entirely from their smartphones.

Pew’s survey was conducted between May 29th and June 11th, so the burnout and frustrations stemming from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal were still fresh in the minds of users. But it’s an alarming sign that shows people have a bad taste in their mouths from Facebook after months hearing about privacy mishaps, election meddling, misinformation campaigns, and questionable moderation practices. Today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is testifying before Congress regarding how foreign countries are wielding technology platforms to sow discord and unrest in the United States.

The movement away from Facebook really does seem to be generational: 44 percent of users between 18 and 29 told Pew they deleted Facebook’s app versus the 20 percent of people aged 50–64 who did so. For users over 65, that number dropped to 12 percent. At a minimum, over half of the respondents said they’ve adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, which Facebook has taken steps to make easier.

But this doesn’t just come down to politics. Pew found that “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 recent swell of criticism directed at Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms over supposed censorship came well after the Pew survey was conducted, so it may be a factor the next time around.

Facebook seems to be exploring speech recognition with ‘Aloha’ voice testing

Facebook may be testing speech recognition again with a new “Aloha” voice feature, spotted by frequent app investigator Jane Manchun Wong and reported by TechCrunch, in the latest development in the company’s voice interaction ambitions.

The company was originally said to be planning a smart speaker (also codenamed “Aloha,” as well as “Portal”), but plans were apparently put on hold earlier this year ahead of the company’s F8 conference in May following a distinct lack of public confidence in the social media site due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

But now, it seems that Facebook is back to work, with Wong discovering a new dictation feature buried inside the Android Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps. Right now, all Aloha seems to do is transcribe text in a rough user interface, but considering how existing smart assistants already work, it’s the sort of foundation that the company will need to get right before moving on to more complex, digital assistant parts (assuming that’s what Aloha is even for).

Obviously, offering a simple transcription feature is a long way from having a full-blown Alexa competitor, but combined with things like the company’s now-defunct M assistant and the rumored smart speaker, it’s certainly looking like the pieces are at least starting to come together.

Additionally, according to TechCrunch’s report, the Aloha Voice Testing code also refers to external Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices, meaning that Facebook could be looking at using Aloha as a cross-platform assistant — similar to how Siri or Google Assistant span both smartphones and smart speakers.

For now, though, it’s certainly intriguing to see that Facebook is working on something related to voice — even if Aloha doesn’t end up being the next Alexa.