Facebook grossly misrepresented ad viewership data and committed to hiding the error from its clients for over a year, according to a new lawsuit against the social media giant.
In September of 2016, Facebook admitted that it had overestimated its video metrics, according to a report at the time from The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal noted that a miscalculation in viewers can affect the decisions made by marketers and “how much to spend on Facebook video versus other video ad sellers such as Google’s YouTube, Twitter, and even TV networks.”
On its “Advertiser Help Center,” Facebook told its clients that the time users spent watching videos were “artificially inflated” due to an error. However, the social media company told its clients that it had fixed the problem.
Facebook wrote, “We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics.”
“This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach,” the company said, according to the Journal. “We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.”
In a statement, according to the Journal, David Fischer, vice president of business and marketing partnerships, said, “The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t.”
“While this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, we take any mistake seriously.”
A new lawsuit, however, claims that Facebook isn’t telling the whole truth about the situation.
According to CNBC report Wednesday, the plaintiffs — mainly small media agencies and marketing consultants — are claiming that Facebook actually inflated its ad viewing times by 150 to 900 percent.
In addition, the lawsuit claims the social media giant hid the error from its clients for well over a year so that the company could figure out a plan “to make it seem like it wasn’t a big problem.”
“But rather than correct the metrics immediately in January 2015 and tell advertisers,” the lawsuit claims, “Facebook recognized that ‘a 40% drop will be too significant and might hurt user trust.'”
Facebook has denied the allegations, saying that it fixed the problem only a month before making a public statement.
Additionally, Facebook told CNBC that the lawsuit is “without merit” and that the company has filed a motion to have the cased dismissed.
Facebook said, “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.”
While the plaintiffs have not disclosed an amount, they are seeking punitive damages as well as compensation, CNBC reported.
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