Facebook misled advertisers about video views, lawsuit claims

Galtero Lara
Octubre 18, 2018

If advertisers were more widely aware of this fact, and in particular, if they knew that their advertisements were among those that were not drawing viewers' attention, they would be less likely to continue buying video advertising from Facebook.

"But it didn't-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)".

"We told our customers about the error when we discovered it - and updated our help centre to explain the issue", it said in a statement.

A group of advertisers alleges that Facebook provided misleading statistics about the effectiveness of video ads and may have known the stats were faulty long before they acknowledged the problem, according to a complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday.

The controversy dates back to September 2016, when the Journal reported that Facebook had been overestimating average video ad viewing times for two years. They finally replaced that model with an "average watch time" metric that included shorter view times in 2016.

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Facebook has filed a motion to dismiss these claims and says claims of fraud are false. The latest filing came shortly after the advertiser's review of 80,000 pages of internal Facebook records. However, the lawsuit claims that the average view times were inflated up to 900 percent.

Two months ago, the marketers amended their complaint to add allegations of fraud. In it, the plaintiffs say that, as part of the discovery from their lawsuit, they have learned that Facebook's "action rises to the level of fraud and may warrant punitive damages". A group of advertisers brought a lawsuit against the social media firm in 2016 for failing to disclose the error earlier, accusing Facebook of engaging in unfair business practices by publishing inaccurate metrics that overestimated how long users spent watching ads and ultimately misled advertisers.

In the filing, brought before the United States district court in Oakland the claimants write: "If Facebook had immediately corrected its miscalculation in a straightforward manner, advertisers would have seen a sudden and precipitous drop in their viewership metrics".

They add that the average "duration of video viewed" and "percentage of video viewed" metrics were "typically inflated by between 150% and 900%". Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false.

However, online marketing agency Crowd Siren's Tuesday complaint claims that Facebook knew about the inflated metrics as early as 2015, according to Bloomberg.

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