Facebook blamed for writers losing jobs due to inflated video-view metrics

Facebook is sued for ‘inflating’ ad watch times by up to 900% to lure in advertisers

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.

At the core of the dispute are Facebook's methods to calculate video viewing time.

"Facebook's records also show that the impact of its miscalculation was much more severe than reported", marketers allege in court papers filed in August, but only unsealed on Tuesday. For its part, Facebook only admitted it had overestimated viewing time by 60 to 80 percent.

Now, a handful of small advertisers are suing Facebook for unfair business conduct and fraud.

Facebook didn't tell advertisers and publishers about known problems with its video viewing data, effectively duping them into investing in video ads and products, a new lawsuit filed in California alleges. In the latest version of the complaint filed Tuesday, those claims were unredacted. At the time, large swaths of the complaint were blacked out, including the information forming the basis of the fraud allegations.

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Facebook hid a flaw in its video-advertising metrics that overestimated viewer engagement for more than a year in an effort to entice and keep advertisers on its platform, according to a lawsuit filed by a group of advertisers. The complaint also alleges that Facebook's errors were more significant than reported in 2016. However, by discarding shorter video views, the company also arrived at higher average watch times.

Meanwhile, Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that it was "false" to suggest that the social network tried to hide the issue from advertisers.

Facebook is accused of sitting on its hands from January 2015, when it first became aware of discrepancies in its video-ad metrics, for over a year without taking any corrective action, an "unethical, unscrupulous" act likened to fraud by the lawsuit.

They add that the average "duration of video viewed" and "percentage of video viewed" metrics were "typically inflated by between 150% and 900%". "We told our customers about the error when we discovered it - and updated our help center to explain the issue", a Facebook spokeswoman said in response to the lawsuit. The engineer wrote that there "was no progress on the task for a year", and continued to report the metric for several months while using a "no PR strategy" that avoided drawing attention to the error, according to the suit.

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