Facebook - Sorry, Not Sorry Australia?

For quite a number of years now the dominance of social inter-exchange has occurred primarily via a single entity & tech giant, Facebook especially it seems in Australia, with a land mass of 7.692 million km² & a population of around 24.8 million people (at the time of writing) Aussies clearly love their social media platforms - Facebook in particular.

Statistics sourced & provided by Vivid Social, a Social Media Agency provide readers with a update of social media activity each month. In the month of February 2018 the following statistics, taken directly from their website reveal the demographic of Facebook users which is surprisingly high for such a small population:

Social Media Statistics Australia, February 2018

Facebook – 15,000,000 Monthly Active Australian Users (steady)

Australian Facebook Users As A Percentage Of The Total Population

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Population Clock there are approximately 24.6 million Australians. Facebook’s recent data shows there are now 15 million active Australians on Facebook. Therefore approximately 60% of the total Australian population is an active Facebook user. This is a huge number.


Facebook Demographics in Australia

Social Media users in Australia are some of the most prolific in the world, with a total of around 60% of the country’s population an active user on Facebook, & 50% of the country logging in at least once a day.

Age Bracket Number of Users*

  • 13 – 17: 940,000
  • 18 – 25: 3,500,000
  • 25 – 39: 6,100,000
  • 40 – 55: 4,100,000
  • 55 – 64: 1,600,000
  • 65+ : 1,200,000

*approx. numbers

Penetration of the Australian Population


  • 6 in 10 Australians use Facebook.
  • 1 in 2 Australians use Facebook on a daily basis.
  • 1 in 2 Australians use YouTube.
  • 1 in 3 Australians use Instagram.
  • 1 in 6 Australians use Snapchat.

Global Stats of Interest

  • Facebook Monthly Active Users (Worldwide) - 2.01 billion
  • Facebook Daily Active Users (Worldwide) – 1.23 billion
  • Instagram Monthly Active Users (Worldwide) – 600 million
  • LinkedIn Registered Users (Worldwide) – 467 million
  • Snapchat Daily Active Users (Worldwide) - 161 million

Key Points to Note:

  • Approx 50% of the Australian population logs into Facebook on a daily basis.
  • WhatsApp has close to 5 million active users in Australia
  • A significant proportion of the Chinese community in Australia use Chinese social media tools like WeChat, RenRen & Weibo - these networks are growing.
  • LinkedIn now reports there are 8 million registered users in Australia, according to our research – just over half of this number log in every month.

In the coming months, it will be interesting to check back on Vivid Social's website to see how the numbers above have changed - or not!

Propaganda & The Monetization Of You

On May 1st 2017, The Australian Newspaper (paywall to access) published an article which detailed that a media reporter had seen their presentation deck which was being touted around to advertisers. This presentation showed that Facebook could demonstrate real-time profiling of its users, some of which were as young as 14 years of age.


The Australian Newspaper reported in their article that the presentation was made by two high level Australian executives - Mr. Andy Sinn & Mr. David Fernandez. The content described how Facebook gathers psychological insights on people, those targeted specifically included children & young adults attending high school, university & young employed people residing in both Australia & New Zealand.

The Facebook analytics utilized were said to be so sophisticated that the company were able to monitor data in real time. This included pictures & posts uploaded to social media which could determine when young people were feeling 'stressed', 'defeated', 'overwhelmed', 'anxious', 'nervous', 'stupid', 'silly'', 'useless' & felt like a 'failure'. The benefit of course for advertisers being they could determine when was the best time to drop an advertisement into a user’s Facebook news feed in order to elicit the maximum benefit for their advertising spend.

When Did Things Begin To Sour

From around the time Facebook was floated in 2012 things began to change - as any publicly listed company, Facebook needed to keep the shareholders happy by taking the company to soaring new heights. Typically, there two ways to increase growth online - it can occur through the acquisition of new subscribers to the service, &/or the addition of advertising. To put this growth into context, in 2012 Facebook had around 1 billion users, today they have over 2 billion. With the addition of increased user engagement came the drive to increase time spent on Facebook by its subscribers.

By keeping people engaged on Facebook for longer periods of time meant they were exposed longer to more advertising opportunities & providing Facebook with the ability to acquire more information to profile each user including customizing their news feed. These feeds are specifically related to each user & are generated by their sophisticated algorithms which have evolved using artificial intelligence or machine learning. Consequently, every action made when using Facebook is being recorded & analysed, further building a personal profile on each user of the site. The unique news feed users receive is customized with a single purpose - to keep its users on the site longer by streaming information based on their mood at the time they are engaged on the platform.


Cognitive Bias & What Is Really Real?

Cognitive bias is an innate human trait that we desire as humans to always be right. That 'I knew that' moment - which makes us feel good, to be right, to be vindicated in our beliefs. The Facebook algorithms feeds on this & sends users information confirming what they believe to be true, rather than that which is actually true. This keeps users engaged for longer, sending positive messages & reaffirming their righteousness. What this means for users of Facebook is the creation of a false reality within their own space, leading to confusion & potential conflicts as they engage with each other in the real world. Negative messages too are powerful tools to keep users engaged for longer. Rage is a strong emotion indeed, so whatever it takes to keep you there for longer, Facebook makes it happen.

Emotional Contagion

Your emotions are being controlled by the platform, whether you are happy, sad, angry & everything in between. Content is driven directly to you using Facebook's sophisticated algorithm to control your emotions. Once you are in the clutches of an emotional state, this feeds out to your own network of friends to some degree - positive or negative. In fact, its already happened as over 689,003 users were emotionally manipulated without the permission of its users. The results of this so called 'study' by Facebook were published to the shock & awe of academia after the fact. After the release of the study, an apology was issued & that was about it. Numerous media outlets reported on the incident at the time including this article from The Guardian UK & Forbes Magazine.

Cambridge Analytica

The founder of Cambridge Analytica was Robert Mercer a genius computer scientist who built a billion dollar hedge fund fortune which he then used to fund a number of right wing ventures including Breitbart News Network & Cambridge Analytica, which developed highly sophisticated data using voter profiling. The company uses the information its gathered to target a specific piece of data to sway or move the voter to a particular outcome such as manipulating voters towards, or to drive them away from a candidate. One such example of this occurred during the Brexit vote. Its known that Nigel Farage is closely linked to Robert Mercer along with Steve Bannon, who is a former Vice President of Cambridge Analytica. In Australia, the company was engaged to use their unique data sets by the Liberal Party & its speculated they played a part in the recent referendum on marriage equality.


Facebook's Augmented Reality

In December 2017 Facebook released a new suite of augmented reality tools for Facebook Messenger. Called 'world effects' this suite of tools allows subscribers to insert real-time 3D objects into any picture or video directly into their devices camera frame. These additional features compliment already existing AR features provided by the social network & allows users to experience a more interactive visual capability on their smartphones. While these additional features may be viewed simply as a set of fun tools to share with friends, some are now questioning if there are more sinister outcomes for users of world effects. By allowing video to stream your environment directly into Facebook's algorithms new opportunities open up for Facebook, blurring the lines even further between a users 'virtual' world & their 'real' world.

As I write the hashtag #deletefacebook is trending on twitter, however it remains to be seen if people take the time to consider just how much they stand to gain or lose when they interact with Facebook now & in the years to come.

Further reading: Meanjin.com.au The Last Days Of Reality by Mark Pesce

Sandra Hawkins

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