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Facebook will have more dead profiles than living in the next 50 years: Study

A study shows that if Facebook keeps growing at its current pace then it will have more dead profiles than living by the end of the century.

  • Published: April 30, 2019 2:40 PM IST

At the end of first quarter of 2019, Facebook announced that it has 2.38 billion monthly active users. In terms of user base, Facebook is more populous than China and India, and could soon have more users than the two most populous countries combined. However, a new study on Facebook claims that the platform will have more dead people by the end of the century. A paper published last week by Carl öhman and David Watson of the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute predicts that the number of dead profiles will outnumber that of living profiles by 2070.

The study says that the prediction is based on current number of Facebook members. It says that if Facebook continues to grow at its current rate of 13 percent a year then the number of dead profiles will reach 4.9 billion by the end of the century. The authors note that the number should not be seen as a landmark but rather how the data will be preserved for future generations. This comes after Facebook expressed its plans to map the world population using AI.

“The results should be interpreted not as a prediction of the future, but as a commentary on the current development, and an opportunity to shape what future we are headed towards,” lead author öhman, a doctoral candidate at the OII, said. “Facebook is merely an example of what awaits any platform with similar connectivity and global reach,” he added.

“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,” David Watson, co-author of the study and a doctoral candidate at the British University, said. “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,” he added.

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In order to curate and preserve this data, Watson suggests that Facebook should invite historians, archivists, archaeologists and ethicists. According to Business Insider, Watson is calling for an effort that will not only include finding solutions for the next couple of years, but for many decades ahead. Facebook currently allows users to “memorialize” an account if a person they know has passed away. This keeps the profile up but stops others from being able to log into the account.

It also allows verified immediate family members to remove the profile of their loved ones, if they chose to, after they die. However, Facebook has not offered details of the number of accounts on the platform that are not active or has been turned into a memorial account. The study by öhman and Watson shows how Facebook could become a digital heritage of a person even after they are dead.

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  • Published Date: April 30, 2019 2:40 PM IST