In the earnings call, the company outlined a few reasons for the growth slowdown:
Rise of competitors like TikTok in the short-form video space
Apple's privacy focused software updates
A hike in data prices in Facebook's biggest market: India
However, there appears to be another reason that could have impacted Facebook's growth in India, that wasn't mentioned in the call.
An internal study, accessed by Reuters, suggests that Facebook in India is primarily male-dominated and many Indian women avoid the platform because they're worried about their safety and privacy.
What Did The Study Show?
The India-focused study was conducted by surveying thousands of people from 2019 to 2021 and reviewing internal data, according to the Reuters report.
It revealed that while there is a gender imbalance in internet use across India, the imbalance is even worse on Facebook. Men accounted for three fourths of Facebook's monthly active users in India in 2021, researchers found.
Women are mainly worried about content safety and unwanted contact. According to the study, nearly 80 percent of female Facebook users in India had expressed concern about "content/photo misuse".
Women regularly receive inappropriate comments and friend requests from strangers on Facebook, prompting some to use the locked profile feature which allows only friends to view your posts.
The feature had been adopted by 34 percent of women users in India in by June last year, the study reportedly said.
The prevalence of "negative content" also appears to be a big problem. According to researchers, India ranks first when it comes to the circulation of nudity on Facebook.
Disinterest, family disapproval, app complexity, and lack of access to phones were some of the other barriers that Facebook reportedly identified in India.
Outdated Data, Says Meta
In response to the report, a Meta spokesperson told Reuters that the seven-month-old research couldn't be used to accurately gauge how Facebook was doing in India at present.
The online gender imbalance was an industry-wide problem, they said, adding that Meta, between January and April 2022, removed more than 97 percent of nudity and sexual content before it was reported.
The spokesperson reportedly pointed out that Meta had launched a Women's Safety Hub, among other features, and the company's safety and security team had grown multifold in the past few years to become 40,000 strong.
Whatsapp and Instagram Pull Ahead
Facebook's stagnation in India is in stark contrast to the fast-paced growth that Meta's other subsidiaries – WhatsApp and Instagram – are showing.
The 2021 research showed that Facebook was adding about 6.6 million users per year while WhatsApp and Instagram were adding 71 million and 128 million respectively.
WhatsApp has the most users, while Instagram is showing the fastest growth. Facebook has the second-largest user base, but the slowest growth.
The research said that non-Facebook users were primarily now using the internet for visual content like pictures and videos. Such content has been the main focus of Instagram and Facebook is also now revamping its feed to attract younger users.
"People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long-term," Mark Zuckerberg had said in February.
(With inputs from Reuters)