Facebook Facing Another Lawsuit Over Allegedly Misleading Advertising Claims

Kenny Grant
October 20, 2018

The metrics errors didn't affect the amount of money brands were billed for advertising on Facebook, but the lawsuit claims that the skewed picture of video views "induced" businesses to purchase a greater volume of video ads on the platform, per The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the plaintiffs include marketing agency Crowd Siren and Pennsylvania resident Jonathan Murdough. On top of this accusation, the suit also claims that the social media platform knew as early as 2015 that it was over-reporting the figures. Furthermore, its activity was described as "likely to deceive" advertisers. The advertisers had initially filed an lawsuit in 2016, but Facebook documents released through the court process shined new light on the grievances. However, the lawsuit claims that the average view times were inflated up to 900 percent.

Facebook says the lawsuit has insufficient evidence and dismissed the claim.

Facebook claims that it informed the customers just after the errors were discovered and updated their help center to explain the issue.

Facebook's growth is dependent on convincing advertisers that people are watching more video on its site, Bloomberg notes, and the company is battling to win back trust after finding evidence that Russians used the social network to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and revealing that hackers stole personal info on 29 million users. "The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video". Because it was not including any views under three seconds, it had the effect of inflating the average length of a view in its "average duration of video viewed" metrics.

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When it eventually disclosed the problem in 2016, Facebook said that average view times were inflated by 60 to 80 percent.

The social network changed its tune on Portal's data collection partly due to miscommunication, another Facebook employee told Recode: Portal won't run its own advertisements, but data collected on the device could be used to target users with ads in separate Facebook apps.

Facebook now has a dedicated metrics team and allows third parties and experts to review its measurements regularly.

The amended class action now alleges that Facebook overestimated ad viewing time by 150 to 900 per cent, and that it knew about the issue for a year. If Facebook kept mum on the errors, it had major impact on advertising campaigns. Many sites infamously made the decision to pivot to video around 2015 to 2016, laying off writers and scaling back written content.

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