A top Wall Street firm has warned that users of Facebook might abandon the social media platform due to rising negative sentiment regarding privacy issues and data sharing, and a new trending hashtag, “#deletefacebook.”
In an online statement and in comments made on Wednesday regarding the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he would be open to more government regulation, CNBC reported.
“I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I think in general technology is an increasingly important trend in the world and I actually think the question is more, what is the right regulation, rather than ‘Yes or no, should it be regulated?,'” Zuckerberg said.
Predicting that Zuckerberg’s statement will not restore user confidence in the company, Bank of America Merrill Lynch reduced its price target for Facebook shares from $265 to $230.
“We think Zuckerberg addressed the issues and a long recovery process can start. That said, there was nothing that could be said to appease the most vocal critics, mainstream backlash will persist as Cambridge Analytica remains in the headlines, and we would expect some impact to near-term platform usage,” analyst Justin Post wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.
Facebook’s stock has declined 8.5 percent over the previous three trading sessions, eliminating approximately $45 billion in stock value. On Thursday, Facebook shares were down 1 percent.
Post reaffirmed his buy rating for Facebook, but contended that social media outrage and the negative sentiment might damage the company’s financial results in 2018.
“With ‘#deletefacebook’ hashtags trending and the onslaught of negative Facebook headlines (Uber had a similar situation last year), we have to consider the potential that some portion of users reduce usage of the platform,” he wrote. “In terms of ad targeting, we see medium-term risk that additional user permission management and reduced consent … and as a result, ad pricing growth could trail our estimates.”