knew about inaccuracies in the video viewership metrics that it
provided to advertisers and brands for more than a year, according
to documents filed as part of a potential class action lawsuit on
Tuesday. Advertisers were duped into focusing on the social network
under the belief that people were spending more time watching on
Facebook than through other video platforms. The inflated data also
led many media organizations to put an emphasis on Facebook video
and chase views to the detriment of other editorial efforts.
internal efforts behind the scenes reflect a company mentality of
reckless indifference toward the accuracy of its metrics,” the
plaintiffs said in Tuesday’s filing. The plaintiffs allege that
advertisers began to question Facebook about metrics that seemed off
in 2015. Newly unredacted documents claim that Facebook ignored the
problem and kicked the can down the road with “no progress” for a
year. In pursuing their case, the plaintiffs were able to review
roughly 80,000 pages of internal Facebook records.
communications show that Facebook was aware of a problem, according
to the Tuesday complaint, well before the company claimed in 2016
that it “recently” had realized its calculations for the average
time users spent watching videos were being artificially inflated
dating back two years. Facebook said the error didn’t result in
billing mistakes or partners being overcharged.
metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video
divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it
conceded at the time. “It reflected the total time spent
watching a video divided by only the number of ‘views’ of a video
(that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds).” By
Facebook’s estimation, this inflated the metrics that advertisers
saw by between 60 and 80 percent.
1. Facebook eats into the audiences of traditional news orgs 2. Offers metrics showing that media orgs can get massive viewership on Facebook videos 3. Media execs lay off huge numbers of writers to pivot to video 4. Except Facebook’s numbers were FAKE 5. UNIONIZE YOUR NEWSROOMS
the new documents paint a much worse picture and claim the
discrepancy was actually anywhere between 150 to 900 percent. It’s
easy to see how advertisers would be encouraged by such inflated
data and choose to dump more money into Facebook video ads versus
those on YouTube and other platforms.
lawsuit accuses Facebook of unfair business conduct and fraud. A
Wall Street Journalthat
“suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our
partners are false. We told our customers about the error when we
discovered it — and updated our help center to explain the issue.”
That statement seems to conflict with the unredacted documents that
allege Facebook learned of its bad numbers in January 2015 and
figured out the issue within a few months afterward. Facebook
maintains that the lawsuit from a group of small advertisers, which
seeks class action status, is without merit.
social network now works with third-party measurement companies and
has agreed to undergo audits from the Media Rating Council.