Widely-watched Dutch comedian says "Bye Bye Facebook"

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A popular Dutch comedian has urged hundreds of thousands of fans to join him in saying “Bye Bye Facebook” in protest at the social networking giant’s handling of private data.

Arjen Lubach, whose widely-watched satirical television show “Sunday with Lubach” has more than 400,000 followers on the social media site, said the programme would delete its Facebook account on Wednesday, joining a string of high-profile entertainers and tech executives who have urged users to do the same.

Although it’s impossible to know how many will follow through, 11,000 of Lubach’s Facebook followers said on Facebook that they would join Lubach by deleting their accounts.

In recent weeks, the #deletefacebook hashtag has gained prominence after the world’s largest social network was shown to have allowed personal data to end up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica - a political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX have shut their Facebook pages. The call was also backed by Brian Acton, co-founder of the messaging service WhatsApp, which was sold to Facebook for around $19 billion in 2014, and by entertainers including the singer and actor Cher.

The company itself has said #deletefacebook has not had any meaningful impact on users to date and financial analysts say the controversy has had little impact on advertising or user engagement on the Facebook platform so far.

In an earlier foray into politics, Lubach helped attract the hundreds of thousands of votes needed to trigger a public referendum that last month rejected a new Dutch law granting spy agencies the power to conduct mass tapping of internet traffic.

Lubach’s best known skit is a parody of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan, “The Netherlands Second” which has been viewed more than 26 million times on YouTube, and triggered dozens of copycat videos in other countries.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Eric Auchard; Editing by Kevin Liffey