A new analysis conducted by researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute (part of the University of Oxford, England) said the dead may outnumber the living on Facebook within 50 years – a trend that it said will have grave implications for the world’s digital heritage in the future.
From their analysis, the researchers said if Facebook continues to expand at current rates, the number of deceased members could reach as high as 4.9 billion before the end of the century. Facebook With an estimated 2.32 billion monthly active users as of the fourth quarter of 2018, Facebook is currently rated the world’s largest social network.
The predictions are based on data from the UN, which provide the expected number of mortalities and total populations for every country in the world distributed by age, and Facebook data scraped from the company’s Audience Insights feature.
Nigeria is ranked as African’s highest internet using country, making up 27.4 percent of the continent’s total usage. According to statcounter GlobalStats, Nigeria had 79.25 percent Facebook users between March 2018 and March 2019. Statistics also predict that the number of Facebook users in Nigeria is expected to reach 30.4 million, up from 22.4 million in 2018.
Lead author of the analysis, Carl Ohman, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute said the statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data, how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased and its use by future historians to understand the past.
“On a societal level, we have just begun asking these questions and we have a long way to go. The management of our digital remains will eventually affect everyone who uses social media, since all of us will one day pass away and leave our data behind. “But the totality of the deceased user profiles also amounts to something larger than the sum of its parts.
It is, or will at least become, part of our global digital heritage,” Ohman stated. “Co-author of the study, David Watson, also a DPhil student at the Institute explained: “Never before in history has such a vast archive of human behavior and culture been assembled in one place. Controlling this archive will, in a sense, be to control our history.
“It is therefore important that we ensure that access to these historical data is not limited to a single for-profit firm. It is also important to make sure that future generations can use our digital heritage to understand their history.” Ohman said the analysis sets up two potential extreme scenarios, arguing that the future trend will fall somewhere in between.
“The first scenario assumes that no new users join Facebook as of 2018. Under these conditions, Asia’s share of dead users increases rapidly to account for nearly 44 percent of the total by the end of the century. “Nearly half of those profiles come from India and Indonesia, which together account for just under 279 million Facebook mortalities by 2100.
“The second scenario assumes that Facebook continues to grow by its current rate of 13 percent globally, every year, until each market reaches saturation.” Ohman stated that under these conditions, Africa will make up a growing share of dead users. “Nigeria, in particular, becomes a major hub in this scenario, accounting for over 6 percent of the total. By contrast, Western users will account for only a minority of users, with only the US making the top 10.
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