After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a new problem has come knocking at the door of Facebook. Online marketing agency Crowd Siren is taking legal action against the social networking and, based on reviewing 80,000 pages of internal Facebook records, is claiming it knew about inflated metrics around video view times as early as 2015.
“[Facebook] revealed in September 2016 that it artificially inflated a key metric, total time watched divided by views, for two years because it only counted videos as viewed if they had been watched for 3 or more seconds,” reports CNet. “By failing to take shorter views into account but still counting them towards total time watched, it possibly misled advertisers.” Facebook at the time was telling a number of advertisers that it was overestimating video watch time by 60-80% in some cases, but Crowd Siren believes this could actually have been as high as 90%.
The legal action from Crowd Siren hinges on accusations that Facebook was aware of the inflated metrics much earlier than it says it was and was consciously over-reporting them. It adds that Facebook had roared into prime PR deflection mode to try and bury the story. And top of the legal action stack from Crowd Siren is a claim of fraud and, as such, it is seeking punitive damages. Facebook has dismissed the accusations, saying that the lawsuit is “without merit”.
In a Twitter thread, Chris Conroy, a senior editor at DC Comics, spelt out the devastating knock-on effect of this all on the content industries, many of whom were acquiescing with Facebook’s public pivot towards video. “[This] had the DIRECT consequence of 90% of media orgs firing writers in favor of expensive video producers, who also got fired when it turned out video was worthless,” he claims. “Careers were devastated.” He then argued that the Facebook employees and executives involved in the alleged metric inflation and coverup should face prison sentences. “Facebook is one of the single worst things to happen in the 21st century,” he said, the bit now firmly between his teeth. That company should be shattered and the Earth should be salted in its wake.”