Advertisers are suing Facebook over misleading reports of ad viewership.
In 2016, Facebook publicly noted that it inflated the average watch times for videos and claimed to have fixed the issue as soon as they became aware.
The issue centered on the fact that people were not viewing advertisements for nearly as long as the metrics claimed. The metric Facebook originally called “average duration of video viewed” did not include “viewers who had watched for less than three seconds in the count,” according to BBC.
Because these viewers weren’t included in Facebook’s metrics, the average watch time on videos rose sharply. Facebook said it fixed the issue in 2016, though it was criticized for considering a video “viewed” after just three seconds of watch time.
Now, some of Facebook’s video advertisers are suing the social media giant, making claims that Facebook knew about the issue over a year before it acknowledged the flaw publicly.
The plaintiffs believe that Facebook knew as early as 2015 about the inflation of video metrics. According to The Mercury News, the plaintiffs said their “claims are based on internal Facebook documents obtained through the court process.”
In order to get away with continued over-reporting of ad metrics, the advertisers claim, Facebook developed a “‘no PR’ strategy” to avoid bringing any attention to the issue.
Facebook has dismissed the case as “without merit.”
This case holds some weight, especially considering the amount of revenue Facebook generates by selling to advertisers. In 2017, according to NBC, the company made $39.9 billion in ad revenue alone. As Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, famously said to Senator Orrin Hatch in April 2018, “Senator, we run ads.”
Additionally, Facebook bases its ad prices on the projected viewership of any given video.
Even if Facebook didn’t fraudulently inflate its video metrics, its herky-jerky video incentives still led to newsroom chaos. @alexismadrigal and I put together a preliminary tally of who suffered during the “pivot to video”—and the pivot back: https://t.co/sKzZln8U0L
— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 19, 2018
A lot of friends lost their jobs over this bullshit. Facebook outright lied and pushed this whole “pivot to video” narrative. It’s all a big house of cards. https://t.co/hjYGNbVPRO
— Benjamin Bailey (@BenHBailey) October 17, 2018
The lawsuit against Facebook is yet another scandal among many, contributing to an overall critical view of the social media giant; however, this scandal puts a direct hit on Facebook’s main source of revenue.