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Facebook moves to quell YouTube star’s claims of video ad skulduggery


By Seb Joseph | News editor

August 4, 2015 | 4 min read

Facebook has downplayed accusations from a YouTube star that it allows pirated videos on its site so it doesn’t have to share ad revenues with the original creator, but has stopped short of outright denying charges that its video views are “based on lies, cheating and theft”.


Hank Green, an American vlogger with a YouTube following of more than 2.5 million subscribers, posted the allegations on his blog yesterday (3 August). Facebook “is lying, cheating and stealing” in order to dominate a lucrative video advertising market, he wrote, alleging the social network is purposefully slow to give pirated content the boot and is inflating video view stats in order to be seen as a superior rival to YouTube.

A Facebook spokeswoman clarified that intellectual property was a key issue for the business despite Green’s claim to the contrary.

“We take intellectual property rights very seriously,” she added. “This is not new to Facebook. We have a number of measures in place to address potential infringements on our service. For years we've used the Audible Magic system to help prevent unauthorised video content. We also have reporting tools in place to allow content owners to report potential copyright infringement, and upon receiving a valid notice we remove unauthorised content. We also suspend accounts of people with repeated IP violations when appropriate.”

It’s a massive technical challenge, one the company has been trying to resolve by exploring how it updates its content management tools for people and publishers. The Drum understands that some of these changes will arrive before the end of the summer.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if Facebook was working on a solution now which they can roll out conveniently after having made their initial claims at being the biggest, most important thing in video,” Green added. He went on to slam the “inexcusable” predicament that Facebook has no system to protect independent rights holders in the way that YouTube does.

Facebook’s spokeswoman said: “As video continues to grow on Facebook, we're actively exploring further solutions to help IP owners identify and manage potential infringing content, tailored for our unique platform and ecosystem.”

Conspicuous by its absence, is the social network’s outright denial of the other allegations Green made. However, it has made moves to provide a transparent video offering for people and brands.

Green claimed the online business is lying about the number of views videos get on the platform by counting them as view before people have started watching them. YouTube in contrast, counts a view the “logical way”, said the vlogger, typically at the 30-scond mark.

While Facebook’s three second viewability rule is a contentious issue, it’s an industry standard used by Comscore and one that advertisers are aware of with the social network recently handing them the option to pay for video ads by impression – i.e they get charged as soon as the video starts playing – or once it’s been watched for 10 seconds or more.

Green also said Facebook freely admits to ensuring the YouTube videos or Vines it hosts only reach a small fraction of their intended audience. “But if I post the same video natively on Facebook, suddenly it’s in everyone’s feed everywhere,” he wrote. It’s a situation indicative of the company’s ongoing efforts to get more advertisers to pay to reach its users, while reducing the impact of organic posts.

To that end, the social media firm is testing suggested videos on its iPhone app, running additional videos posts it thinks a user will enjoy based on data. Facebook will share 55 per cent of revenue from ads that appear in the suggested videos feed during the test, based on the amount of time spent with each partner's video. But advertisers won’t be able to get a cut during the first phase of the test, while it irons out kinks in the experience.

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