Facebook Says Coronavirus Pandemic Has Led to Massive Increase in Use, Especially From Locked Down Areas

Social media company Facebook reported Tuesday that its usage has increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic because of social distancing, particularly areas most affected by the virus such as Italy.

Users in Italy have increased their time on Facebook apps by up to 70 percent during the coronavirus outbreak, with views on Facebook Live and the Facebook-owned Instagram app doubling within the space of a week. Messaging has also seen a rise of over 50 percent while group calls have increased by over 1,000 percent.

"During this emergency, we're doing everything we can to keep our apps fast, stable and reliable," read a Facebook blog post by Vice President of Analytics Alex Schultz and Vice President of Engineering Jay Parikh. "Our services were built to withstand spikes during events such as the Olympics or on New Year's Eve. However, those happen infrequently, and we have plenty of time to prepare for them. The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day."

Twitter has also seen an uptick in users during the spread of the virus as first quarter numbers for 2020 indicate 164 million users on the messaging platform, an 8 percent rise from 152 million users in the fourth quarter of 2019.

"Twitter's purpose is to serve the public conversation, and in these trying teams our work has never been more critical," said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a news release sent to Newsweek. "We're seeing a meaningful increase in people using Twitter and our teams are demonstrating incredible resilience adapting to this unprecedented environment."

From the beginning of January through Tuesday, there have been 777.5 million Tweets sent globally about coronavirus, according to information sent to Newsweek from Twitter.

Phone usage was also on the upswing. "Consumer home voice calling minutes of use were up 45 percent from an average Monday," said a Tuesday statement from AT&T. Wifi calls were 78 percent higher Monday than average while the usage of wireless voice minutes was up 39 percent.

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More people are using Facebook because of the global coronavirus pandemic according to data released Tuesday. Getty

People in quarantine have begun to rely on the internet more for telecommuting, staying in contact with each other and to keep entertained. In Europe, streaming company Netflix agreed in March to switch from high-definition video to standard-definition for 30 days so that broadband providers would not suffer overload.

"We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," said a Netflix spokesperson in a March statement.

YouTube also announced the worldwide temporary switch to a lower default resolution, already in effect across the European Union, in a Tuesday statement.

"We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation," said a Google spokesperson. "Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the EU. Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today."

Internet provider Comcast announced in March that it would be opening wifi hotspots across the country to all Americans, including those who are not currently Comcast subscribers. For those who subscribe to the company's service, Comcast is also putting its data plans on pause for 60 days.

"During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet—for education, work, and personal health reasons," said Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson in a March statement. "Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the same belief that it's our Company's responsibility to step up and help out."

If a decrease in internet speed is detected, try moving the wireless router to a central location in the home. Wifi extenders that plug into a wall outlet may also improve the wireless internet signal.

Updated 11:57 p.m. EST 03/25/2020: This story has been updated to include additional information from Twitter.