Facebook misled advertisers about video views, lawsuit claims

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.

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The complaint claims Facebook knew its metric for measuring video views was flawed as early as 2015, but didn’t alert advertisers about the problem until September 2016. The advertisers also allege that Facebook inflated viewership statistics at a far larger clip than they have publicly acknowledged.

“In addition to Facebook knowing about the problem far longer than previously acknowledged, Facebook's records also show that the impact of its miscalculation was much more severe than reported,” the filing says. “The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60-80 percent; they were inflated by some 150-900 percent.”

Facebook admitted in 2016 that it had only counted videos as “viewed” if they had been watched for three or more seconds. Videos viewed for less than three seconds, or not viewed at all, were not included in the metrics.

The advertisers are suing Facebook for fraud, alleging that the faulty stats allowed the social media platform to charge higher rates for video advertisements that were thought to be more effective than they actually were.

“The lawsuit is without merit and we’ve filed a motion to dismiss these claims of fraud,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false. We told our customers about the error when we discovered it – and updated our help center to explain the issue.”

The filing cited roughly 80,000 pages of internal Facebook documents, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the allegations.