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Digital Transformation

Facebook video autoplay sees mobile data allowances breached after ALS Ice Bucket Challenges


By John McCarthy | Media editor

September 4, 2014 | 4 min read

Social network Facebook’s video autoplay feature has been blamed for sending mobile users over their data limits after the site was bombarded with ALS Ice Bucket Challenge clips.

The autoplay option, which was automatically implemented into the site earlier this year on an opt-out basis, resulted in Facebook timeline videos being played regardless of whether the viewer wanted to see the content on Wi-Fi, 3G or even 4G connections.

Facebook autoplay videos were introduced this year

This change reportedly caused a spike in consumers' mobile users’ data allowances, especially after Ice Bucket Challenge videos recently took over the site.

Consumer advice website Money Saving Expert first flagged up the issue after it received complaints from individuals with exceedingly high mobile bills and unexplained data usage.

The feature can be restricted to Wi-Fi connections only - or completely disabled by users via the app’s settings menu.

Steve Nowottny, consumer and features editor of MoneySavingExpert, said: "It's worrying that Facebook is autoplaying videos by default, as it's clearly catching users out, with some claiming they've unknowingly exceeded their data limit and incurred extra charges as a result.

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"Anyone who uses Facebook on their mobile or tablet when they’re out and about or using 3G or 4G should check their settings now - change your autoplay settings to off, or so that videos only play over Wi-Fi."

Dan Deeth, a reporter from the broadband-centric Sandvine blog, said: “That may sound shocking, but if you think back to the time pre-autoplay, your Facebook page would have been mainly text and images.

“Add in video, which is essentially 24-30 photos being displayed in your feed each second, and you can see how the data quickly adds up.”

MoneySavingExpert also encouraged those hit by unfair data bills as a result of the feature to contact the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme to organise a refund from the mobile networks.

Facebook first teased the video auto-play feature in 2012 as a way to monetise video ads and increase their social engagement.

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