Advertisers accuse Facebook of hiding false video metrics for over a year

Advertisers accuse Facebook of hiding false video metrics for over a year
© Greg Nash

A group of advertisers suing Facebook has filed a new complaint accusing the social media giant of knowing about glitches in its ad software that misrepresented viewership for videos but not disclosing the glitch to advertisers for over a year.

The advertisers, who sued Facebook in 2016 arguing that it provided incorrect data on video viewership, claimed in their filing Tuesday that the company knew of the incorrect information starting in 2015 but did not disclose it until well into 2016.

The new filings came after the advertisers reviewed 80,000 pages worth of internal Facebook documents and records they acquired as part of a court order.

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“Facebook’s internal efforts behind the scenes reflect a company mentality of reckless indifference toward the accuracy of its metrics,” the advertisers said in their filing.

They allege that Facebook’s silence was a part of a media strategy to avoid bringing attention to the alleged mistake.

“The company decided to 'obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math' by quietly retiring the erroneous metrics and replacing them with corrected metrics under a new name," the filing claims.

According to the complaint, things like “Average Duration of Video Viewed” would be swapped with “Average Watch Time” with the corrected data.

Facebook in a statement provided to The Hill denied that it "tried to hide this issue" from partners.

“This lawsuit is without merit and we've filed a motion to dismiss these claims of fraud. 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,” a Facebook spokesperson said in the statement.

The allegations come as Facebook faces increasing scrutiny surrounding various missteps over the past year, including the company's revelation earlier this month that tens of millions of its users' accounts had been breached in a hack.

Earlier this year, Facebook faced massive backlash over the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which data from 87 million users was shared without their knowledge as well as over how its platform was manipulated by Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election.

Facebook is also facing hurdles abroad as it struggles to stop its platform from being used as a tool in facilitating ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and contributing to lynchings in India.