In its earliest days, Facebook was primarily a white and Asian phenomenon, but no more: In the first study of the race and ethnicity of its U.S. users, Facebook said on Dec. 16 that blacks and Latinos have joined the social-networking giant at a rapid clip in the past several years, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Illustrating the growing diversity of online users as the internet matures, a study by Facebook researchers found that about 11 percent of the social network’s approximately 100 million U.S. members were African-American, about 9 percent were Latino, and 6 percent were Asian–a much higher share for blacks and Latinos than four years ago. Facebook does not ask its more than 350 million worldwide members to disclose their race. But researchers at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network used a Census Bureau database of the demographic characteristics of 150,000 American surnames to track the rapidly changing racial makeup of its U.S. members over the past four years. Ultimately, the statistical analysis could be a way for Facebook to dig deeper into the vast web of friendships, civic attachments, and other relationships of its members. Although there is controversy about the value and limitations of sociological data gleaned from online networks, some experts believe that such studies could provide rich sociological insights, filling in the broad gaps left by existing sources of demographic data like the U.S. Census…

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