Facebook has been accused of misleading brands by not telling them for more than a year that it was overestimating the amount of time people spent watching videos on the platform. Facebook did not tell advertisers about known problems with its video viewing data. This had the advertisers investing in video ads and products for over a year. This was shared by a lawsuit filed in California. The inflated data also led many media organizations to put an emphasis on Facebook video and chase views. This greatly damaged other editorial efforts.
In September 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook had been miscalculating the average time users spent viewing paid video ads by 60 to 80 percent. At the time, Facebook said the problem had existed for about a month and that it had been fixed. The company first discovered irregularities about the way it was calculating viewing time in early 2015. Later, they had found out the nature of the error for all the misguiding, the lawsuit alleges.
But a group of marketers, filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook in 2016. The lawsuit filed was for the erroneous metrics. They alleged that Facebook knew the problem much longer than a month and did nothing for more than a year.
More Information about the Error over a Year
In the amended court filing, the marketers cited internal Facebook communications began as far back as July 2015. Facebook engineers were aware of why the miscalculation was occurring but disclosed nothing. The plaintiffs claimed that some paid video ad metrics inflated approx 150 to 900 percent, more than previously reported.
Some observers suggested that Facebook’s inflation of video viewing figures affected not only advertisers but also media outlets. The inflation made a misguided decision to depend on videos. The marketers assumed that this was the way to get people’s attention. Facebook used a “no PR” strategy to avoid drawing attention to the problem. However, they “obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math,” the plaintiffs alleged, citing the internal communications. The advertisers said the new information prompted them to add an allegation of fraud to their initial complaint. In pursuing their case, the plaintiffs were able to review roughly 80,000 pages of internal Facebook records. Facebook says that the error showed no billing mistakes or partners overcharged.
The lawsuit accuses Facebook of unfair business conduct and fraud. The social network now works with third-party measurement companies and has agreed to undergo audits from the Media Rating Council.