Lawsuit Alleges Facebook Duped Advertisers, Publishers With Inflated Video Stats

Mae Love
October 18, 2018

Discounting the shorter views - including people who had ignored a video in their news feed - inflated the average viewing times for each video.

Facebook has found itself back behind the dock over accusations that it over-inflated its ad view statistics by as much as 900% in order to entice advertisers to part with their cash. The advertisers also allege that Facebook inflated viewership statistics at a far larger clip than they have publicly acknowledged. For its part, Facebook only admitted it had overestimated viewing time by 60 to 80 percent.

"If Facebook had immediately corrected its miscalculation in a straightforward manner, advertisers would have seen a sudden and precipitous drop in their viewership metrics" and "would be less likely to continue buying video advertising from Facebook", according to the amended complaint, which was obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The skewed metrics did not relate to paid advertisements, but they could have misled brands into thinking that Facebook (fb) was a livelier video platform than it actually was, and some small advertisers sued the platform following its admission.

Two months ago, the marketers amended their complaint to add allegations of fraud.

The claims that Facebook failed to act when it discovered the video metric error were in an August filing, but were heavily redacted at the time.

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"Internal records recently produced in this litigation suggest...that Facebook's action rises to the level of fraud and may warrant punitive damages", the advertisers said in a Tuesday filing.

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".

In response, Facebook said: "This lawsuit is without merit and we've filed a motion to dismiss these claims of fraud". The now-filed lawsuit alleges that this allowed the company to inflate average watch metrics by up to 900%.

The plaintiffs went on to say that "multiple advertisers had reported aberrant results caused by the miscalculation", but the social network "did nothing" to stop the spread of its incorrect metrics.

"Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false", a Facebook spokeswoman reportedly said.

"Facebook either knew that the average viewership metrics it was reporting. was false or reported those metrics recklessly and without regard for their truth", the complaint alleges.

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